Of late, so many people that I know have been posting sentiments that speak of the deep feelings of sorrow and loss that they are experiencing because of the deaths of loved ones. They feel not just sadness but deep seated regrets as well. They are thinking that perhaps they never made it clear enough how much they truly loved the people who have died. Some wish that they had spent more time enjoying life with their dearly departed. Others simply wish for more time. All such feelings are universal to the human experience. We all have them at one time or another and they are always difficult, even when we believe with all of our hearts that the people we are missing have gone to a much better place.
I’d like to be able to assure everyone that we ultimately reach a point in time when we we get over thinking of the special people who are gone, but that would be an untruth. I lost my father almost sixty years ago this May and I often imagine what life might have been like with him. The deep despair that I felt at his passing is long gone but the wonderment of who he was, is still there. I’d so love to sit with him for an evening so that he might answer all of the questions that I have. I’d like to hear his voice once again and listen to one of his stories. Mostly I want to tell him how much I have always loved him and what I learned from him even in his absence. I believe that he knows what I am thinking and is always with me in a spiritual sense but it would still be great to have that one final opportunity to open my heart to him. I think that this is all that any of us desire.
Death is always shocking for us, even when the person who leaves is old and frail. My grandfather lived to 108. Instead of making his final days easier, his longevity fooled us into somehow believing that he was immortal. When he died we didn’t feel better simply because he had been with us for so much extra time. Instead we had become spoiled by his presence and were not yet ready to release him. Even now I think of a million more things that I want to say to him. He was the one person who always provided me with a sense of peacefulness. Nobody has since been able to reproduce the serenity that I always felt in his presence. Now I relay a mental image of him sitting in his recliner, smoking his pipe, gesturing with his enormous hands and telling a tale with his folksy voice and I feel whole once again. My memories of him are as real today as they were thirty years ago.
We never really know when we will be touched by death. We cannot truly comprehend why some wonderful individuals leave us far too soon. We don’t dwell on the fear of losing those that we cherish but always in the far corners of our minds is the realization that none of us get to live forever and death is our ultimate destination here on earth. The randomness of who is chosen and when they will be taken produces our most painful feelings. It doesn’t seem right when a father in his thirties is killed in an accident. We are stunned by the senselessness of violence that takes away a promising young man one in his twenties. We can’t understand why the companion who had been our best friend had to go and leave us feeling so lonely and bereft.
My mother’s eldest sister is celebrating her ninety-seventh birthday this week. Other than being wheelchair bound due to osteoporosis she appears to be in the peak of good health. There is no real explanation as to why she and her sisters are still hale and hearty in their nineties and the baby of the family, my mother, has been gone for five years now. They shared much of the same DNA but somehow the outcome was different for my mother. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I am happy for my wonderful aunt but wonder why my mother was chosen to go so much sooner. Only this morning I thought of how much fun we always had and would give anything to hear her happy voice reverberating on my phone once again.
We love with all of our hearts. The wounds that open and fester when a special person dies eventually heal over but the scar that remains reminds us of them forever. The memories do one day become pleasant. They make us feel good. We realize just how blessed we were to have known the wonderful people who passed through our lives and helped to make us who we are. We carry them in our hearts and they make us strong. We go through many stages in the process of grief. There is little that we or anybody else can do to ease the pain. It is simply a natural part of who we are.
I suspect that our loved ones would want us to celebrate their lives, not descend into depression. Finding joy when someone is newly deceased is always easier said than done. We have to allow ourselves to feel the emotions that flood our hearts. It is the only way that we will ultimately heal.
My mother suffered from debilitating depression. When her mother died it became almost unbearable for her. She cried at the very mention of her mama’s name. When she spoke of her sadness to her psychiatrist, he assured her that she was demonstrating some of the most normal reactions that he had ever seen from her. He told her to let the feelings out, which she did. Ultimately she was able speak of her mother with a smile on her face. Such thoughts actually became pleasant for her. The memories made her mom seem to be alive again.
We would no doubt bring our departed back if given the chance but we know that such things only happen in tales of the supernatural. We eventually learn to laugh again when we think of the friends and family members who have beaten us to the pearly gates of heaven. We are able to tell those who never knew them of their wonder. We see them all around us if only in spirit. That cup of coffee reminds us of Grandma Ulrich and the sugary brew that she served us in enamel cups. Along the fishing pier in Corpus Christi we see Daddy pulling in a prize catch. We smile at the memory of seeing Purple Rain with our good friend, Pat. The sights and smells of Macy’s at Almeda Mall let us hear Mama’s voice again bragging about the latest bargain that she has found. We laugh with Egon and imagine him prancing along the fjords of Norway when we hear the strains of Finlandia.
All that I can say to those of you who are still suffering is that your hurt is part of being human. It will take time to feel good again just as when you have major surgery. Each passing day will bring you more strength and move you closer to feeling normal. As you journey the person that you are missing will be right by your side. One day when you think of him/her you will be able to smile.
No, we never completely get over losing the people that we love. We keep them alive in our hearts until it is also our day to join them in their heavenly home. It is the circle of life that goes around and around and around. Ultimately we are the embodiment of every person that we have ever known. They live in you. They live in me.