Saturday, July 19, 2008

Growing into Loss

When I was in high school my grandfather on my father's side passed away. When Mom called to tell me about it I wanted to attend the funeral, but it wasn't convenient because I was attending boarding school in San Marcos at the time and the funeral was in Kingsville. So the idea of my grandfather being gone was somewhat unreal to me. I never got to consider the expected need for closure with that situation or make any. It was so distant that I didn't even mourn. I tell myself that my grandparents are in my heart and live on there and that I will see them when it is my time to go. It feels like they are on an extended visit and they'll be back soon...that time being unfathomable because it would be when I get to where they are.

If you've got a long, close history with someone this can be a reasonable reaction. It isn't the expected one, but it falls in line with what we are taught in church or myth surrounding death. So the first time I ever grieved was when I had a friend dying of cancer. I still miss her but the pain has settled down to a conversational thought tossed heavenward knowing that she is looking in on me from time to time. I knew her for 3 years and it took me 2 to delete the folder with all her emails in it. Why didn't I feel that way about my grandparents? I guess because I'd always had them close enough to go visit that expectation held on in my reaction to them being gone.

Ever since my first experience mourning the loss of someone I've found it hard to hear of someone else getting ill with cancer or something else that could take this familiar, loved face from my world. It's like the idea of loss suddenly became real. So I had a hard time yesterday when a friend at church said she read the obituaries daily looking to see if anyone she knew had gone on. When someone I know gets sick I get so sad and hurt so inside that I have a hard time dealing with it. I wondered how others dealt with that pain. I know several people I care about at church that are getting on in years and becoming frailer every time I turn around. The idea of them not being there is scary. I wonder what I can do because the idea of cringing and hiding away from the pain that the thought of them passing on brings is instinctive, but the desire to be close to them while they are here is critical to my loving them.

And that's what my friends and I discussed last night in my Cursillo reunion. There are apparently stages of mourning and one of them has some pamphlets that she will give me shortly to read on the subject. It felt really good to have someone to talk to about my concerns over my emotional reactions to pain and fear of loss. I felt like I'd been taken into a group of wise women and was being supported and brought up in a very loving way. We all cried for those we loved and were concerned about losing. We talked about ways we could be close to them while they are still here. I may be making one or two changes in the ways I interact with my church to support my being close to those I love because of that conversation. And I feel really wonderful about the whole thing. Even though I cried I know I am loved and understood by those women, and I'll be better at loving people I know who may not be with me that much longer.

Peace! Hope! & Joy!


San said...

Death is a huge and daunting mystery. It is important to experience one's grief fully so that it can pass on through. That doesn't mean we ever stop missing a loved one, or that we have times of remembering that make us very sad.

Thank you for sharing your personal feelings and fears, Lee. I believe we all relate to those fears. The women's circle sounds very loving, and yes, wise. Those connections are so important.


Lee said...

Thanks San! Gotta admit that I tend to shy away from depressing subjects which is one thing death can be. However, I think that growth, often hard, especially when you can do it without trauma, is worth the effort of dealing with such a difficult subject.

I think I've got more fodder for the next PC visit. Wonder what Mark will have to say about the subject, or more likely, what questions he will ask of me?


jsd said...

I've never been to any funerals for people on my immediate family's sides. I don't really like funerals - and when I die I don't want a funeral; I'd rather an intimate gathering of friends catching up with each other telling stories about all the stupid shit i'd done, so that when they left their hearts would feel full.

murat11 said...

This was quite beautiful, Lee. I've had the same disparity in experiences of people's passings. Haunted and desolated by some, and oddly, joyous with others. Friend Ralph, who I wrote about recently - all I have felt since his passing is his joyous presence.

Years back, my uncle Bud's funeral was during a long-planned trip to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival: I was convinced that he was in the car with me, going to the fest, instead of to his own shindig.

Peace to you.

Lee said...

JS, I'm not sure what I'd want. I've never seen a wake. The funerals I've attended didn't really help that much. Maybe humanity needs to come up with a better plan. Yours sounds ok...but I can't really judge because I've never seen that either. I just hope the folk I leave behind still feel connected inside so that maybe they aren't feeling the loss as badly as some do.


Lee said...

Thanks Paschal! I know what you mean...people sitting near you. There are times when I can hear my friend deby's voice and see her looking at me. One friend used to tell me that her family always got visits from the spirit of the member that was about to pass on. They'd all get up and call each other the next morning. I guess there is more to this interconnectedness than we can say.

Glad your buds are keeping you company! :)


Sandi McBride said...

Of all of God's mysteries (the ones we'll know the answers to when we get to heaven) death surely has to be the most mysterious of all. We have answers to so many of our questions (at least answers that do at the time) except for this one. Like you, I was far away when my Mammy (my grandmother, remember?) died and it was another two years before I actually went to her gravesite. It was there that it became real to me and my tears were unstoppable for days. I was having one of those "thanks, I needed that" moments that we all need from time to time. But I have learned not to dwell on the inevitable, but live for the day...I'm glad you're getting answers to your
is something we all need from time to time

Lee said...

There are triggers aren't there, Sandi? I've had mourning moments for my grandparents too. Even then it feels like they are just "gone on a little trip." Thank you for sharing your story about your Mammy.

Yes, the answers will definitely come in handy as it seems that more and more I have reason to be concerned about someone.

If I get any new insights when my friend shares her pamphlets with me I'll let you know. :)


david mcmahon said...

Lee, there is so much power in this post.

Lee said...

Thank you, David! Emotions are powerful things aren't they.