May 102017
 

In the hyper-awareness that comes with loss, quite a few bittersweet moments have embossed themselves on my heart and memory. Snapshots of love, grief, and faith, gathered over the last two weeks.

Sacred Bittersweet Moments

Our minds record touching, bittersweet moments more vividly than a camera could.

I thought the dearly departed would have enjoyed some of them, were he watching. Perhaps he was. My insights aren’t unique, I’m sure. Such bittersweet moments happen in families all the time. But I found comfort in writing them down. Considering them together, I realize that they tell a story that is as much about the departed as those he left behind.

I hope that by my sharing them, you’ll record a few of your own.

Sacred sounds

A pastor’s voice cracking, tears streaming down her face, as she pronounced, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Uttering the words, “His blood, shed for you,” siblings assume their father’s stewardship of the tiny church, assisting the pastor.

A granddaughter’s solo, poignant yet familiar, fills the space.

Throughout the tables crowded with people, white bread sandwiches and mayonnaise-based salads, laughter rings out in the midst of tears.

Intimate, Bittersweet Moments

The widow greets her recently widowed brother-in-law by her husband’s casket. Supported by cane and walker, their heads bend, foreheads resting against one another, tears flowing in shared loss. Others, turn tactfully away, granting them privacy in a crowd.

Ninety-two-year-old sister-in-law dips the bread in the chalice, intinction-style, then selects a communion cup of wine from the tray, taking it with her to her seat. Silent laughter through prayers and tears.

Grandchildren

Cousins hug. Standard distance that accompanies re-acquaintance dissolved in shared shock. Resolute. Wet-eyed. Comforting each other, laughing together, through the tears.

Six young adult grandchildren spread the funeral pall—symbol of the resurrection—over the casket together, with help from the six-year old great grandchild. Somber under their mantle as earthly evidence of his legacy of love and family.

Then, with the two youngest in the lead, the grandchildren move the casket to the chancel, ushering their beloved grandfather to the gates of heaven.

After the service, grandchildren slip flowers out of their gardner-grandfather’s funeral blanket, transferring them to their great-grandparents’ stone, giving homage to ancestors whose memories have faded, yet still transcend.

Great-grand child selecting yet another stone to grace with a flower, because it might make someone happy. Hugs, smiles and laughter through the tears.

Roles shifting

Widow, now matriarch, offers to pay for dinner. Grandchildren confer, then cough up tens and twenties. Provider becomes the protected.

Grandsons and their uncles, awkwardly making their way through the grass and grave markers, struggling with the weight of their burden. Carrying the load. Together.

Grandson occupies the driver’s seat, ready to chauffeur his grandmother to the grave-side service, accidentally pops the hood. Laughter, through our tears.

Afterwards

Café tables pulled together and food and beverages shared, loved ones sit, heads together in small groups, telling stories they’ve all told and heard before. Laughter through the tears.

Helpful offspring, stripping beds, not realizing their siblings had already done the same. Laughter, despite the heaviness of heart.

A solitary face in the window, waving goodbye.

His gifts of faith, family, storytelling, and laughter keep giving.

Your Turn:

Can you tell a story through the description of a few poignant or bittersweet moments? I’d love to see what you come up with.

May 272016
 
What else have you lost quote by Havelock Ellis

What else have you lost? How did that loss teach the fine art of living?

Grief often rears its dark, draining head, not just when someone dies.  The onset of many life crises is the loss of something. A relationship, a value, a sense of purpose.  We’ve all experienced a loss of a pet or cherished object (See Writing Your Lost and Found Story.) But what else have you lost during your lifetime?

Loss of a Relationship, Sense of Identity

A loss of a relationship can also entail a loss of an identity. Our worldview changes when life chooses to make an illegal U-turn.

Recently, a friend of mine when through a time of anguish that makes me feel neurotic grieving over my perfectly normal empty nest. Her 20-year-old daughter disappeared from a rehab facility in a major city many hours away from home. For two eternally long months, there was no sign of her child.

Finally, by chance, driving along a major thoroughfare in her own city, she spotted her daughter. The reunion was also a moment of heartbreak. My friend has a hard time talking about it. Though she temporarily located her daughter, my friend’s world had shifted on its axis. In addition to missing her daughter’s physical presence in her home—in her life, the shroud of adulthood that her daughter now possesses limits her ability to help her child who suffers from mental illness and addiction.

When have you had to make peace with a new version of “normal”? A divorce, job loss, or career change can also spark feeling of a loss of identity. How did you right yourself? How did you regain your sense of self? These make great stories, stories with the power to connect across generations.

Innocence Lost

Another friend tells of her pre-teen loss of innocence. The Oakland County child killer and the panic he instilled in the entire Detroit metro area robbed her and her friends of carefree afternoons, riding bikes to each other’s houses. Of going out to play out from under the anxious, watchful eyes of their parents. The bubble of invincibility that buffets children against the horrors of the adult world popped. In its place came an imagination that ran rampant. It colored not only her own development, but the eventual choices she would make as a parent.

Loss of Physical Ability, Memory

There are things that our mortal, frailer-than-we’d-like-to-admit bodies cheat us out of as well. They betray our still active minds by refusing to work, or at least work as well as we’d like. They force us to fight disease instead of those life battles we want to mount.

Perhaps you’ve had to bear helpless witness as a particularly cruel disease causes a family member to misplace memories, even their sanity. Past moments, even the recognition of loved ones, fade into oblivion. Consider writing about these moments of heartache; they tell stories of love and devotion.

What else have you lost?

Along the road, whether by virtue of physical maladies or of the life sh** that happens, we lose things. Intangible things. Confidence. Independence. Hope. Faith. Courage. Our groove.

Don’t you think these moments are important to share? What would you want your loved ones, especially those of future generations, to take away from your story? Of course, they’ll be touched by your loss, but they can also learn from your healing or your renewed perspective. Perhaps they’ll even discover that resilience isn’t inborn, but something that can be gathered along the way, even on the roughest, dirtiest roads.

Havelock Ellis is quoted as saying, “All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” Let your loved ones know how you did that.

Dec 082014
 
Writing about the past

Writing about the past can help you release the negativity while keeping the memory.

When to let go

Connections to the past matter. A lot. But sometimes sadness, hurt, and anger about the past becomes baggage. Carrying those suitcases around make traveling forward more cumbersome and emotionally expensive. Sometimes we have to emotionally let go of past events to keep a healthy relationship with the present and future. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, writing about the past is a great strategy to keep our What-Could–Have-Been from overshadowing our What-Can-Still-Be.

Just so you know which body part I’m speaking from, I’ll confess up front. I’m not good at letting go.

Writing about the past doesn’t just prevent you from bottling up your feelings. Writing can help process the past, enabling us to embrace the present and future. That’s especially true when we combine writing about the past with solid advice from professionals. Although I’m normally all about sharing, these techniques are also helpful when you keep your writing private. Continue reading »

Dec 052013
 
Remembering and Missing loved ones during Christmas

“Forget-me-not” isn’t the issue. Remembering and missing someone can make holidays difficult.

Let’s face it: Remembering loved ones during the holidays isn’t all kittens and rainbows. Remembering can bring feelings of loss and emptiness to the forefront.

But, there’s another truth. It’s going to happen. During the holidays, we’re going to remember—and miss—loved ones who have passed. We going to remember Christmas or Hanukkahs past.

We wonder how to bring meaning to those feelings of loss. Especially during the first holiday season after a loss, we also wonder how we’re going to get through. Here are some resources for doing just that. Continue reading »

Nov 032013
 

Missing Someone on All Saints Day It’s a somber celebration, if that’s not an oxymoron. Many of us find ourselves missing someone on All Saints Day.

Theologically we celebrate the face that loved ones have joined God and are in communion with other saints. We also confirm our belief that we will join them at the heavenly table one day. (Read a full explanation from Presbyterian Missions.) I used to wonder if missing someone on All Saints Day was bad. Because I always do.

When we think of all the “saints” that have gone from our lives, the less faithful—or more honest–part of us wants to lament. “But I’m going to miss him or her! I already miss them!” If the loss is recent, it can even be difficult to hold it together.

In my church, the bulletin contains a list of individuals who have died since the last All Saints Day. Reading the list is like taking a fist into the gut. It contains the names of lovely people who contributed so much to the life of the church. It has names of people who inspired me. When I think of these people–friends, co-workers, and prayer partners and relatives who have died, I miss them. Continue reading »

Apr 222013
 

Write about memories tell your storyThere are plenty of unselfish reasons to write about memories, but there’s nothing wrong with doing it simply for yourself. You can write about memories to preserve your stories while memory serves, for the joy of writing, or to work-through your past. You can also write about memories because telling your stories is therapeutic. Continue reading »