I am happy to announce that I am now a member of a prestigious club called SAR. For those of you who weren't sitting at my kitchen table this evening as my membership was approved, SAR is the "Super Awesome (w)Riters" club. Ok, so maybe it's not quite as prestigious as I first let on, but it seemed like a pretty big deal to my six year old daughter who created the club...and named it.
To kick of the initial meeting of SAR, I asked her what we should write about. Within seconds, I had numerous ideas that involved puppies, ponies and/or princesses. My ideas were quickly dismissed by her as she had another topic in mind. She said we should write about how Grandma got sick, died and then went to heaven. So much for a lighthearted fluff piece to start off??
The gears instantly started turning in my head generating new ideas. (My fellow bloggers out there would understand...and those around me can often hear them....the gears, that is.) I thought about how many posts I have done recently about babies being born (one of which is today by the way) and thought maybe it was fitting to talk about the other end of the life spectrum. First though, I am going to share my daughter's post on this topic:
Grandma got sick and we went to see her in Texas. When we left, I said "Te Amo" to Grandma. Grandma died and went to Heaven with Jesus before we went back to Texas the next time.
For those of you who don't speak Spanish, "Te Amo" means I love you. The little tidbit she left out was that we were loading into the car to leave and she saw that we were all a little teary eyed. At this point, she understood that Grandma was sick and that she wasn't going to get better. I think it just finally sunk in for her that this would be the last time she'd get to see Grandma. It was at this point that she ran back to Grandma, gave her another hug, and said "Te Amo." Well, if there weren't waterworks enough already, there certainly were at that point.
Now, as a Christian, I could spend the next few pages explaining how we were sad that Grandma was going to die, but happy knowing that she would be free of pain and living in splendor with her Savior shortly in Heaven. My daughters (and the rest of my family for that matter) continue to be sad that we can't call her up on the phone whenever we want while also continuing to be happy that she is in Heaven...where we will one day be reunited with her. Like I said, I "could" go on and on, but regardless of how important that is to me, it's not the route I'm going to take tonight.
It will be two years in January since my Mom passed away. My girls continue to amaze me with their crystal clear recollection of those couple of months two years ago. (We had about six weeks from hearing a terminal cancer diagnosis to Mom passing away.) In the past weeks and months, I have had a number of friends lose a loved one. Some were an unexpected shock while others were the expected end to a serious health battle. What really stands out to me though is how many of them were a parent of a friend.
There is no "one size fits all" cure for how to deal with the loss of a loved one and I am by no means a licensed therapist or counselor. I am however an everyday average guy who likes to explain things in an everyday average way. I don't really recall going through the five stages of grief as any therapist would explain to you. I would imagine they would try and explain to me that I went through them all and just didn't realize it. I know what I felt and what surprised me. I obviously didn't know what to expect, not having been through it before, so it really did surprise me.
My first reaction was probably shock. Not shock like a surprise. More like numb. I had the "advantage" of knowing it was going to happen very soon, so it wasn't a surprise. I expected that when that day finally came I would explode into tears and breakdown. That didn't happen. Although I am not a tearful kind of guy, that still surprised me that I didn't cry at that point.
Fast forward to the funeral. Having gone more than a week without breaking down in tears, I agreed to do a reading at my mom's funeral. About three words into a wonderful reading about Grace, I got a lump in my throat the size of an grapefruit. Let's just say I somehow made it through the whole reading while gnawing on the inside of my cheek in an effort to avoid breaking down. (Some would say that was me getting past the denial stage.) Aside from choking back tears through a couple of hymns in the church that day, that seemed to be the end of the tearful sadness I was half expecting.
Fast forward again a few months (and now years) and I continue to be surprised by what gets me choked up. It's not because it happens to be the anniversary of her death. It's not (at least very often) because someone asks me about her. No, it's from the weirdest things. One of my girls can make a facial expression that reminds me of my Mom. The smell of chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven. Seeing a quilt my Mom made. Basically, just some off the wall little things that I wouldn't have expected.
What I really learned from it was not how I cope with the loss of my Mom, but rather how I now value the other friends and family I still have. (I wrote about this a while back in a post called "Family Time" if you want to read a bit more.) Like the title of this post says, "Your life ain't over yet."
Yes, you're going to be sad. Yes, there will probably be tears. Yes, you're going to miss them. But while you're doing all that, look around you. Chances are pretty good that you will see you are surrounded by friends and family members who are pulling the same double duty you are. Being sad and understanding alongside you while also being cheerful and uplifting at the same time. Tragedy and loss are often followed by an enormous amount of togetherness and love. The key lesson I was reminded of by this is that the togetherness and love was (and is) always there. It's just often overlooked when we don't have a reason to "need" it at the moment.
Thank you to those of you who managed to read through another long-winded post on my part. As I said before, I don't claim to be an expert. In fact, I hope you appreciate what I've said because I'm not an expert...just an average guy who's been through it. My heart goes out to those of you who have lost someone. I pray that you will find your peace, take note of the love around you and resume your life without the ability to be able to call that loved one on the phone at a moment's notice.
I feel like I should write a quick post about a princess who had a pony or a puppy just so I can end on a cheerful note. Then again, recognizing the true value of your friends and family is pretty cheerful in itself. Until next time....