Age is a learning experience that can’t be gained in the best college or university. With age comes wisdom and mature thinking. It is not our number of birthdays that make us wise however, it is the hurts, the losses, the tragedies we face and overcome. It is also the celebrations large and small of successes and how we accept them.
With every loss of someone we love, our lives change in some way. For months I’ve had my brother and his wife on my mind. He died suddenly on a Sunday morning in August and she passed away three months later.
How can my life ever be the same? We die a little bit with the death of our loved ones. But we learn something each time we face the pain. Hopefully we learn something that helps us with the time we have left. In talking with my brother’s daughter, I felt the raw edges of her grief. For months that family watched their mother fighting for her life, tortured with surgeries, and finally she passed away quietly under Hospice care.
The cremains of this couple, married back in the fifties, are commingled in one urn and buried in an ancient cemetery near the grave of our great-grandfather under massive oaks gray with moss.
Christmas is coming, but how do the daughters and grandchildren celebrate the holidays with joy when the home their tradition-loving mother filled with light, with delicious family meals, exquisite Christmas trees, and gifts lovingly bought or made, is no longer there. It hits them. You can't go home now because home with Mom and Dad is gone. That unconditional love from their parents is only a memory now.
Wisdom comes with this realization. Once we face the pain ourselves, we don’t judge how others handle grief. Once humbled we realize we have no right to judge. We have had our legs cut out from under us and we barely survived, we feel fortunate to still be here, so how could we judge anyone who is dealing with that pain. Empathy grows in places it never thrived before.
Once I was ignorant about this kind of loss. But I learned as I experienced losses of loved ones. Everyone deals with loss, with mourning, in their own way. No one can tell us how we should behave. No rules apply. No limits apply. We don’t get over it. We go on with our lives, and if we are lucky, we finally have days when we no longer feel that stabbing pain when we think of our loved one. We finally are able to talk about our loss without crying, but that doesn’t mean the hurt is gone. We just bury it deeper inside so we can continue to live in the real world.
Finding a way to reach out and help others seems to work best for healing. Starting a ministry for helping children, using our talents to teach others what we know, supporting Hospice or doing something for others in the name of our loved one gives us peace and comfort. Most of us have a need to keep the name of our loved one alive. “As long as we are remembered by even one person we continue to live.”
As my nieces and their children face life without the guiding light of their strong father and mother, my hope is for healing, and my prayers for peace in their lives are foremost on my mind.