Welcome back to Solo at Sixty…
Warning… this week’s post is NOT going to be lighthearted. I had planned to discuss this topic much later in the year, but recent events have forced it front and center. I lost a friend one week ago today, suddenly and unexpectedly. On March 1st, a friend, a very special young mother lost her hard fought battle with cancer. Another friend lost her first born son a month ago. I have been to 2 funerals this year and am going to another one tomorrow night. These families are heartbroken. Why were these adored mothers and this precious child taken from their families? I have no answers. How will those left behind pick up the pieces and go on? Because as callous as it might seem, life does go on.
I remember being in the ICU with my Dad back in 2000. My sisters and I were dealing with the pain and sorrow of knowing we were losing our Dad, and yet when we looked outside the hospital window, people were going about their daily lives: going to lunch, going for walks, laughing and talking. Their lives were going on in normal fashion while our lives were at a devastating standstill. My dear neighbor called to check on me and I told her how hard I found this. Her wise advice? “Let this be a comfort to you – life does go on.” It is true. I have been so saddened by these recent losses, yet I have continued to go to work, to run, to get my hair cut – all everyday occurrences. My life was carrying on while my friends’ families have planned funerals and tried to figure out how they will go on.
“When someone you love has passed away, never look down to the floor with sadness. Instead, keep your head held high and look to the heavens, for that is where your heart has been sent to heal itself and those who have passed will live inside our hearts forever.” Dave Hodges
Young people think they are immortal. When death enters their world, it is nearly impossible for them to comprehend. Each of my three children lost friends in high school due to cancer and car accidents. They and their friends were affected by these tragic, unimaginable deaths. And as I witnessed the extreme emotional pain of the young people at the recent funeral of my friend’s college aged son, I wondered how this loss will affect them. Will they appreciate life in a different way? Will they seek to help others? Will they strive to make the world a better place?
“Grief is the price we pay for love.” Queen Elizabeth II
When you attend the funeral of a family member or a friend, don’t you always say to everyone, “let’s not wait until the next funeral to get together?” Yet we don’t make that effort to get together. Why do we wait? My high school class now has a reunion each year. I am not missing these. We have lost too many of our friends and classmates. I want to spend time with these dear “old” friends from my carefree high school years, if only for a couple of hours once a year. Besides, we then keep up via social media, and I treasure that connection.
“Grief is really just love…it is all the love you want to give but cannot…All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” Jamie Anderson
Grief is not limited to losing the people we love. It also extends to pets. This week alone, 3 of my “Facebook” friends’ pets crossed over the “Rainbow Bridge.” As I understand it, this is a special place just this side of heaven for those pets who will wait for their owners so they can cross over into heaven together. Honestly, I do not know first hand the pain of losing a pet, but I have witnessed this pain with my sisters and several very close friends. Their grief was gut-wrenching. My younger sister is downsizing her stable of horses, finding good homes for 2 of her beloved friends. She is grieving this loss. My heart breaks for her. Not all loss is the result of a death.
Grief is the response to the loss of someone or something beloved. A marriage, a friendship, a job, a home. Becoming “SOLO” so unexpectedly put me in a state of grief. I read somewhere “One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is grieve the loss of a person who is still alive.” Today should be my 37th wedding anniversary. It was not meant to be. It is also the wedding anniversary of the friend I lost last week and her dear husband. Again, it is not to be. And again, life goes on.
“Grief never ends, but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.”
One corner of my bulletin board at work is dedicated to the memory of some special people who are no longer with us – a dear friend’s son, my “adopted dad” (special father of a special friend), his granddaughter (young mother mentioned above), and another friend’s husband. I keep these there to remind me daily to never take life, nor anyone for granted. Because, truly, we never know what tomorrow might bring. Several years ago, my sweet childhood friend lost her battle with cancer. She was told she had 3 months to live when her only child was getting married in 4 months. How unfair is that? Believe me she battled that cancer and lived to see him get married plus another year. However, she did not live long enough to experience the wonder of becoming a grandmother to her 2 precious grandchildren. Where is the fairness there? She would have been a wonderful grandmother! There are no answers. Only heartache and again the realization that life goes on. We must have faith in tomorrow.
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” Vicki Harrison
Do we ever truly get over these devastating losses? The times when we doubt we will be able to make it through the next hour, much less the next day? Yes. I believe that one day we will find that we are smiling again. Enjoying life. I truly believe that we will recover and find our way back, but that we will never be the person we were before. We will be better versions of ourselves. More caring, more compassionate, and more loving. It is the circle of life. I had the opportunity to visit with my college friends yesterday, their children, and their beautiful grandchildren….the circle of life.
Hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them. I never end a conversation with my kids without telling them I love them. And I mean it, more than they will ever know. Appreciate life, your friends, your loved ones. Be thankful for today. Keep your faith. Have hope. Be kind.
“Life is precious and when you’ve lost a lot of people, you realize each day is a gift.” Meryl Streep
I love and appreciate all y’all,