I had a conversation with a gentleman today. He spoke of pain. The worst kind of hurt. That no pill could relieve. He had losses too great, but he numbered them. He had lost his father. Someone whom he looked up to and loved greatly, as only a child can. He was in his teen years, those hard days that are all about trying to fit in and stand out. Just when a son most needs the example of his father, his left him. It was not a willful abandonment. No, he developed a terrible wasting disease which slowly stole him away from those he cared most for. His family was sentenced to the truly cruel fate of watching him slowly fade away. Each day the edges of his character draining out of him until he was left empty. A husk where a beloved father had once been.
Well, this young man so filled with sorrow at his loss, mourned and did all those things that are so easily started and so much more difficult to be stopped. There was drinking and smoking and ditching classes, all in an attempt to express his sadness and the rage that it creates. The emptiness that is left where a great soul once stood could not be filled up with any of those things and so eventually, he set them down. He went back to living. And in doing so he found a new love. a different kind of love. He fell head over heels and he embraced the good that comes with this life we all live. He still thought of his father, how could he not? but he was able to find a peace that comes with acceptance.
They had six years. Six lovely years of happiness. That wonderful heady time of planning and dreaming. Of waking everyday to the one he adored beside him. His love lived at once outside of his heart and yet filling it until it brimmed over. It was a gift, those years. A time to lay away memories still warm from their making and seal them up tight. Winter was coming. Winter is always coming. It was a sudden loss. At once so different from that first and yet so familiar. His love was gone. In a moment carried away to that place that we all go alone when the time comes. And again he mourned. His grieving redoubled. One loss stacked upon the other until they blocked out the sun.
And thus he reached out, looking for some form of light to help him find his way. And so I shared with him that which I believe to be true. Our loved ones do not leave us, they simply change form. You can close your eyes and see them. We have the gift of their memories. They are with us always. I told him this, not to give him false platitudes, but because it is so. I only have to hear a song, read a book and there is that one I had thought had left me. They had appeared in my mind. I could hear their voice, their laughter and it soothed me. I told him that by sharing the story of those he loved, he could change other lives. Those whom had never met his lost ones would hear of them. Know of their kind hearts and giving spirits. I asked him not to stuff them away as if they were an old torn sweater. Worn out and ragged, with no further use. Death is not the end of one's story. It may be an intermission. Hopefully nothing more. If you doubt me, think of those people who came before you. The ones you never met. From William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Martin Luther King, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Albert Einstein and so many more. They have changed us all. Their greatness still echos forward in time. Reaching out to move us with their ideals and their bravery.
We all grieve and that is as it should be. Because they mattered. They will always matter. So, speak often of those who have left us behind. They live through us, past us, into a future as yet unknown. And how wonderful is that? Someone you never knew, could never have known changed your life. It is simply amazing. I tried to impart this idea to this man who still holds on to his losses without realizing he is the catalyst, the vehicle to push those who have left him physically into the future. We all suffer loses. We all mourn deeply. It is as it should be. But please, do not stop there. Do not linger in that place where the air is too heavy and the way too far from the light. I ask you to remember them. Tell others of their lives. Just as my own children knew the stories of my husband's father without ever meeting him. Breathe for them. Do not forget. Honor them with your words and if you can, write their stories down. So others can know of those who came before and the magical chain of life and yes, death continues. Those that we lose can always be found. They wait for us still just close your eyes and remember. Life is filled with both sweet and salt, but we decide what we leave behind and what we take with us.