Last week, I was working in the park, as I often do when I want to especially enjoy the benefits of being self-employed. There is a picnic bench right next to the lake under the shade of a spruce tree that makes a delightful office. I was getting my laptop out of its travel bag when a card fell out of the side compartment onto the table. As soon as I noticed the two kittens climbing a Christmas tree on the front, I knew what it was … it was a Christmas card from my friend, Stan, from the winter before he passed away from pneumonia. I opened it and read:
Thank you for our friendship this year. I am truly grateful for our talks and book studies. It keeps me grounded if but for a day. I wish you the best this holiday season – Embrace your family. It’s really all we have.
Ouch. I’ve been Missing him a little extra ever since.
When I was a young man, grieving wasn’t a necessity. Yes, grandparents and distant uncles passed away … my parents would go off in their church-clothes to their wakes or funerals. They never made me go. I was sad but not for long. Maybe I was insensitive or maybe I was just young. That was then. These days, sadness can wash over me like an ice cold wave if I fail to grieve those who’ve passed on before me. But if I take the time to get past the denial, realize that the anger I feel over their passing is my way of holding back the sadness … if I avoid bargaining to avoid the pain of loss, and actually feel the depression that eventually leads to acceptance … then I usually can look back with gratitude at the time I’ve had with my Missing friends. Usually when I think of Stan these days, I smile at some memory … him making up a story at a meeting and seeing how long he could keep a straight face … or the way he lit up when he talked about his cats.
But then a cards falls out of my computer case and catches me by surprise. Or I’m poking around on my blog and find a years’ old comment by my dear sister-in-law, Sandy. I open my desk drawer and there’s my Dad’s old plastic pencil sharpener. I’m in the car, listening to Sirius XM and Jimmy Buffet’s He Went to Paris comes on. It’s the song I quoted in a eulogy at our friend John’s funeral service. Then the tears come, and protesting I’ve already grieved doesn’t slow them. But that’s OK. In grieving, I honor the lives of those I’ve lost and the recall the light they brought into mine. Would I really want to put an expiration date on that?