My best friend from high school lost her father last week, she and her four sisters. He had not been the best dad, as they all stated, but he was their dad, nonetheless. Death took him from them, at 66 years of age, sooner than any one should have to lose a person that they love.
The loss of him, as far as the impact on her and her family, has not left me. Maybe because we are the same age, and I still have both of my parents living. Maybe because I think about losing my own parents on a fairly regular basis. Maybe because as my daughter grows, and me and my beloved age, it seems that death gets closer and closer to our lives.
Whatever the reason, I am thinking about death, and loss, and losing those that we love the most. And, the grief that comes to reside after such a loss has occurred.
I remember when my beloved paternal grandmother died. I absolutely adored her. I looked forward to my visits with her, I loved to sit with her, I loved to hold her secrets of eating chips and tuna loaded with mayo for lunch, even when she was forbidden to do so because of her terrible diabetes. I kept those secrets close.
When she was dying of cancer, a cancer that she seemed cured of a couple of times, a cancer that wracked her body and stole her spirit, I was visiting her shortly after Christmas. I was home from college on break, and we were at her home. She was sitting in her recliner in the front window, with an afghan over her. I was kneeling beside her on the floor, just looking into her eyes. They were SO BLUE; I had never noticed before. And, she said to me, “I am ready to die”.
I was nineteen. I couldn’t respond; I couldn’t bear to hear the words. I knew her death was imminent, yet I felt burdened to have to be the one to hear those words. My nana, leaving me?
Grief. For a year, I thought that I would never stop acutely missing her; never stop shedding tears; never stop dreaming about her. Eventually, I did. I miss those dreams now. I guess it was my psyche’s way of letting go, accepting the loss of the body of her, but not the memory or the spirit.
And, today it hit me. When I thought about my friends’ father, when I now think about the loss of my grandmother, my other grandmother, my brother, I realize what grief really is.
Grief is directly proportional to the love that we feel for that person that has died. Maybe, even put to the nth power. Grief compounds that love, builds on it with interest. Indeed, there is that initial, hero worship type of grief, in which we view that person as having been all powerful, with no humanness, all godlikeness.
Then, we start to heal, just the tiniest bit, and we realize that each person that we lose to death, in that very humanness that we resist in the beginning, in that humanness is all the love that our hearts can hold. When we remember them with humor, with frustration, with joy, with anger, that is when the love flows.
Because isn’t that how love is anyway?