What Remains. (at Christmas)

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In these days before Christmas, grief tends to hit me more than usual, and sometimes the only reprieve for it is to hold the ones I love a little tighter. So today I look into the eyes of my most precious gifts and I place these moments deep in my heart, knowing that even these as sturdy and beautiful as they seem, they do not last. Even these will pass and grow into something different, and love is the only thing that stays. Through the birthdays and holidays and memories made…only love. Through the questions and disappointments and empty spots at the table, only love. ONLY LOVE remains.

May it beat loud and clear in our hearts this Christmas and remind us that there is greater than just what our eyes can see. May it thread its way through all our holiday celebrations and triumph all our days, the good and happy ones and yes even the sad ones when we remember those who are not with us, and that which is never quite the same. 

Peace!

The Gift of Grief.

(This is a continuation of my last post “When Grief Comes…” If you haven’t read it, please do so, and then continue here.)

I learned a few things from that moment of grief at the San Diego airport. One of them is that it really IS ok to cry. It’s ok to let yourself hurt and feel and remember. In fact, some times it is necessary for you to move on, to get to your next destination.

I learned that grief is good and that this was my dad and this was simply another way to honor him. Even though it caught me in a very public place, I would have done myself a disservice and him a dishonor, to push his memory away.

It never really goes away, anyway. Why not just let it come and let it teach and transform me when it comes?

Because it will.

Grief is a gift and if we allow it to, it will lead us into depths of love and oceans of gratitude we could not possibly have known or felt otherwise.

It takes us on a journey that enlarges our hearts for so much more. More beauty, more joy, more compassion, more love.

I have seen and felt it do its work many times, but none quite like that day, when I stood in the spot where my dad had last walked and breathed and smiled at me. It had been awhile since I remembered him so vividly. His humanity and his greatness. His mistakes and his wisdom.

It had been awhile since I had remembered his love and his care, so flawed and imperfect and yet so deep.

And it had been awhile since I had become so grateful.

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Much like the first wave that had hit me and knocked me off my feet, a wave of deep, powerful love washed over me and left me feeling incredibly blessed and thankful. Thankful that I had known such a man like my dad. Thankful that he had let me in to his pain. Thankful that it had changed me. And that I had become the compassionate person that I am, because of it.

I realized more than ever, that even my father’s death had been a gift, because it had enlarged my heart to feel love in ways I never would have felt otherwise. It had left me searching and vulnerable and exposed, but in the searching, I had found something I didn’t even know I needed. A touch of eternity.

Like the saying goes, “it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” Never do you know this more than when you grieve.

So, I am learning to let myself remember. And in that remembering, to honor the man I called my dad. I am learning to pay my respects to him, by not pushing his memory aside. No matter where I am. No matter when it comes.

I am learning to grieve, and in grieving, to be thankful for what I had, for what I learned, and for all the love I knew.

When Grief Comes, Unexpected.

I was not prepared for the tsunami that hit me in my chest, when I walked down that sunny terminal toward gate number 44 at the San Diego Airport last Sunday.

I had spent three days in the city, networking with bloggers and hanging at the beach with my brother and his wife, who live there. I had had a great time, and I was happy to be going home! The smile I felt in my heart when they dropped me off at the United check-in held no warning of the wave that would hit me, when I walked through the sliding glass doors of that familiar airport.

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The wave was grief and it was strong. So strong that it knocked me off of my big girl feet and landed me in a heap next to the sign that said “Denver: now boarding.”

There I was, laptop and trail mix in hand, ready to board my flight and all I could see was my father. All I could see was him standing in that same corridor, eight years ago.

Grief came and forced me to remember. Eyes gaunt and shot through with pain. Veins pierced through with blood transfusions. Body drooping and weak. Arms, hanging limp by his side.

We had tried to find food before he got on his plane, but our choices were very limited at that terminal, so I had run around several escalators and terminals in a frantic search to find something that his stomach could handle, before he boarded. Eventually I brought back some fries and a milkshake. It was the ONLY thing that didn’t make him nauseous, and I was happy to see him eat.

He made it through half of his fries and then handed the rest to me. I blinked back the tears as I hugged his frail body, and he told me that he loved me and thanked me for being there. He held onto me for what seemed like years, then finally turned to walk down the corridor.

I remembered how I had stood there and watched him until I couldn’t see him anymore. It was as though I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He was my dad. My childhood hero! I remembered how he had turned around and smiled, one last smile, before he disappeared.

But how could I NOT remember?

It was the last time I saw my Father alive.

This time, I stood at gate no. 44 and remembered it all like it was yesterday. I remembered how I had thought life could not possibly go on, but then how it did and how things have changed, how I’ve had babies and how much he would have loved them.

And I grieved. Right there at the San Diego airport. I cried fresh and deep and hard and long for what I missed and for what I had lost.

Somewhere in the depths of my soul, it felt really good. It felt good to just be in the moment and let myself feel the wound, the gaping hole that my father had left. It felt good to not be afraid or ashamed of it in any way, and just let it come.

And doesn’t it come to all of us? Don’t we all feel the gaping? The wound that loss leaves?

I believe that grief comes to all of us in some form or another. A missed childhood. A failed marriage. A ship-wrecked relationship. A baby we never met. An opportunity that never came. A dream that never happened.

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This world can be disappointing and we often find ourselves at the grave of what we’ve lost. Our health. Our hair. Our energy. Our independence. These are all things of value that can be so quickly snatched away and we ache and long to have them back.

But yet we are told to move on. The world pushes us onto the plane that’s waiting. So we push past our pain, scrambling to get to the next destination. But we haven’t grieved yet. We haven’t taken the time to remember. We haven’t honored that person, that piece of us, that place we lost.

We haven’t gone back and said thank you.

(Continued in my next post, “The gift of Grief.”)