Today, I had the honor to walk in another’s shoes. When my friend reads this blog he will assume I mean his mother’s shoes, but in reality, I mean his. I saw his grief, his loss through his eyes while reading her diary depicting her love of life and her efforts to continue as a wife, a mother, grandmother, a believer in her faith, and a servant to God. I am so consumed in my grief and guilt that I am unaware of people experiencing the same. It wasn’t until I read her words that I realized the debilitating pain my friend must feel when he hears the chorus of his mother’s favorite hymn (\”Father I Adore You\”) or aches to feel her words near when worried or frightened. The journey accepting grief as a companion (because I am never without its presence) is a fluctuating road of upheavals and detours. I realize that when he reads her words he is searching to find passages that prove she knew that he loved her, and to find comfort in her words of her love of him. As I read her decisions whether to keep her children “in the loop” or “waiting to tell” so not to burden them, I sensed the anxiety of her son reliving conversations, actions, decisions that prevented him from being near and felt his anger at not knowing that she needed help. I felt his anguish as his mother praised nurses and doctors while worrying if she looked ill or smelled scented of cancer. I re-read her first paragraph, her first point, that she didn’t appreciate the complexity of care required by her mother’s breast cancer and that she was never more involved than, “how are you feeling?” I wondered if she was angry or relieved that her mother had sheltered her and wondered, due to her experience, if she purposely sheltered her children from the same. I was in awe of her husband as his devotion never faltered. In her words I saw his love. A couple bonded by love is as comfortable during a crisis (even a crisis unabated) as working a crossword together watching the earth cover itself in snow. I have witnessed stress causing estranged marriages to reunite that would later falter in times of peace; strong marriages crumble in a life changing event that never recover; and the beauty of marriage when defined and nurtured by spouses truly in love, that steadies during upheavals and flourishes on rainy days. I read her words, and appreciated the love and friendship of her family while sensing the void when she passed and the mixture of feelings: anger, grief, relief, and guilt as they felt her slip from their fingers… leaving an abyss you try to skirt around when being hammered with kind words and sentiments, but treasure when needing that grief, pain, to knock away the numbness and allow the tears to fall.
To walk in another’s shoes, is humbling as I realize that my grief is not unique.
The other quiet booming experience of grief is the guilt of surviving. The guilt of moving forward. There is an imaginary line that keeps tune with your summations of life, in my friend’s reality I am positive he has thought “my mother knew my daughter but never met my son…he will never feel the love she has for him.” Yet, I interject here, my friend, you have spoken often of your son’s grandmother’s love that by witnessing your admiration of her, your son feels the same. Funny, in some situations (as I can refer to my own and others known to me) the passing of a spouse or parent can, in time, allow any pain or hurtful memory to conjugate at the bottom of your emotional tower and allow only the stories of good deeds and joyful memories to rise and spill from the window at the top with increasing increments of greatness as the memory is left unbounded to color the landscape of those unknown. Is this how one becomes a martyr? Is this how the survivor counters the burden of moving forward? I am not sure, as I read her diary I thought of those “after her” having to acknowledge the imaginary line in tune with the surviving family constantly sorting this occurred before her death and this after. How hard to tiptoe around the greatness of the loved one passed, to finally stumble into her favorite chair causing streaks of horror to emanate from the surviving members, one must surpass the urge to run beyond the boundaries of the line and defiantly stay seated, or the desire to retreat from the family while entertaining thoughts of not returning. I believe the hero is the one that stands acknowledging the line and says, “pardon me, I didn’t know someone was sitting here.” After time, and many acknowledgments of inanimate objects, favorite restaurants, and the missing member at family gatherings, the quiet awkward moments become opportunities to let a memory or story slip out of the tower to color the landscape of those unknown canvases allowing the greatness presence as the family moves forward.
As I read her last entry, imagining an existence without pain, I hope she is aware of her status of hero to those she knew, those arriving after, and those touched by her words of life and family.
- Ambushed by Grief (chaplaingary.wordpress.com)
- Grief and the Cancer Caregiver (everydayhealth.com)
- Breast Cancer Awareness Month! (goingsnatural.wordpress.com)
- Grief Quotes (mademan.com)
- A Few Things That Really Helped Me Turn the Grief Corner (connectingwithzoe.wordpress.com)
- Hurry-up-and-get-over-it-unasked-for-unhelpful-advice (griefrevelations.com)
- Standing Room Only (slowmoto.me)