those who left

“As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on—in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.”
Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie (quote is from Morrie Schwartz)

Thankfully, with buckets of gratitude, I know little of true loss. I have lost all of my grandparents; several cats that meant the world to me; and a number of friendships and relationships. I have grieved the loss of all those relationships, to varying degrees. I wonder if the deeper the loss means the greater the grief. And if that has anything to do with how long it takes a person to get over it. And, do we ever really ‘get over’ grief? Or do we move, or rather, grow beyond it?

My maternal grandfather died while I was still in school so I don’t have a lot of memories of him and don’t really think about him that much. I don’t remember grieving that deeply for him. My paternal grandmother favored her son over her grandchildren and my sister over me (at least, that’s the way it felt), so no love loss there, no grief that I can even remember.

My paternal grandfather lived close to us in his final years so I got to know him better and truly grieved his loss for several years. I don’t think about him that much anymore. Does that mean I’ve ‘gotten over it?’ Have I healed from his loss?

My maternal grandmother was a much deeper loss. She died maybe 10 years ago (?) and in some ways I still miss her. I think and talk about her often. When I look at her photograph or one of the mementos I have that belonged to her my heart hurts a little bit. Does that mean I haven’t ‘gotten over’ her loss and I am still grieving?

Whenever I have lost a beloved cat the grief was intense and the most recent, Agnes, left me about 6 years ago but my grief for her absence remains strong. Am I still going through the grieving process for her? Does grief ever truly go away?

Maybe not completely, as long as I still remember my loved one. As I write this I have to wonder how deeply I will grieve for my father since we haven’t spoke in over 22 years and he was such a monster to me growing up. I think about him occasionally – mostly in terms of how I will react to his death. And if I am honest with myself, I am looking forward to his passing from this world to his eternity. What happens to him is of course left to God, but I can’t help but wonder about how I truly and deeply feel about him.

I won’t allow myself think about how I will react when my mother leaves me for her eternity. I figure I will be devastated and collapse under the weight of grief so I won’t even go there now.

In the meantime, these are questions with no answers…and what would life be with out answerless questions?  I have learned to leave such questions with the One who will never leave me, the One who holds me and brings me through grief and pain; and the One to whom I turn to when life crashes down around me. He is my Solace and my Peace, my Rock and my Salvation.

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no regrets

At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test,
not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal.
You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.
–Barbara Bush, Commencement address,
Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, June 1, 1990.
William O. Foss, First Ladies Quotations Book

When I was a child my father moved us (mom, sister, me) to Virginia where we all still reside. He moved us here for his career and I hated him for it. Not only did I have to leave behind my beloved horse but my grandparents as well. The result of that move was that I didn’t spend much time with my grandparents. We only traveled back twice a year – once in the summer and at either Christmas or Thanksgiving. I missed out on some important time spent with them.

My maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother died while I was still in school so I didn’t know them as well as I did their spouses. When I was working and on my own I spent every summer vacation at my maternal grandmother’s. I was fortunate to know her fairly well but my inexperience as an adult didn’t provide the wisdom to know how fortunate I was and after about 8 years of spending summers with her I wanted to be an adult and take an ‘adult vacation’ – so I missed the last few years she was alive. I regret not seeing her when I could.

My father moved his father up to Virginia during the last few years of his life and promptly put him in a nursing home. While he was here I saw him almost every weekend, but again, I didn’t relish the limited time I had with him. I regret not seeing him as often as I could.

Now, almost 30 years on, I see my mother twice a week and sometimes I resent it; but then I remind the selfish me that she will one day go Home (hopefully not for a long time) and I don’t want to regret that I spent my days in selfishness rather than see her.

Time is short. Lives are short. Hopefully age and regrets have taught me to mark the days and take advantage of what little time I have with my mother. And with the rest of my family.

No regrets.

 

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seas of eternity

Someone’s leaving sometimes feels like the greatest pain we have ever suffered.
But our relationships do not die, they just change form.
Faith means knowing that no one is ever really gone.
Marianne Williamson, Illuminata

I have lost all four of my grandparents. With my paternal grandmother I felt no real sorrow. We didn’t get along. I was convinced for most of my childhood she resented me. That may or may not be true. I rarely think about her. My maternal grandfather was the next to leave. I miss him a lot. He had his faults – we all do – but I can still smell his cigar smoke and pipe tobacco when I think of him. He loved all of his grandkids. He made us laugh and when I stayed with him he always brought me orange juice in the morning to wake me up.

The next to leave was my paternal grandfather. As he stayed around longer, I got to know him as an adult and realize just how funny he was. I loved the stories he would tell of his childhood and I do wish I had spent more time with him and had written those stories down.

The last to leave was my maternal grandmother. She was around the longest, having let loose her mortal coil at the age of 95. She was and is a treasure in my heart and life. I miss her terribly. She was wise, gentle, kind and loving, but she could also be snarky and devious. She was honest and never met a stranger. She was creative in many ways and it is from her I have inherited my creativity. I love all the many facets of her.

If I thought I would never, ever see my grandparents again, I would be lost. I want to see them, to know them as they truly are, without all the heavy baggage of this world. I want to know their true selves and their true spirits.

Without my grandparents I would be nothing. Without the faith that they remain alive in a different place, I would be adrift without an anchor, tossed about on the seas of eternity. Without that faith I would have no hope at all.

But I do believe I will see them again, just as I believe I will see again the animals that have blessed my life with their presence. And I believe these things because I trust in a Benevolent and Loving God. 

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