thanksgivings and goodbyes

This week there was an unexpected funeral. An unexpected loss for a family that was, for a formative time in my youth, intertwined with my own family. We shared between us music, creativity, food, vacations on the lake, so very much laughter.

She was one of my mother’s dearest friends, and if there is an afterlife, I know they’ve already found each other and are causing trouble. They are drinking wine, gossiping, and possibly cheating at pinochle. Even if there isn’t an afterlife, the thought of them together again makes me undeniably glad, and so I hold onto that. Her husband of some 50+ years, her children and grandchildren, now have the work of learning to carry on without her.

The flurry of death and the activity of a funeral or service of some sort is only ever the start. A distraction for a time. Just after that, your world begins to turn again, but you still don’t quite understand how that’s happening after such a seismic shift. We are resilient and time does soften, but the now is painful.

I read something this morning, though I can’t find it again. An article where the author wrote of loss and grieving and that one does not go through “a period of grieving” and then one day they’re done. The loss remains, the grieving is fluid and changing—the person is changed. I don’t think we do grief and loss very well, our modern society. We experience it and shouldn’t expect to carry on as we were before. How could we?

This is to say that my heart hurts for these people I have known for decades, and while I have the benefit of time softening the edges of the loss of my own mother, it was tough to say goodbye this week to a woman who was like a mother to me, and for whom I didn’t do enough to show my appreciation. And so feelings and memories of my mother also flooded me today. I don’t find myself in that space too often now, of digging in to that loss, but I know enough to be in peace with whatever percolates. Thinking of my mother is like visiting her where she is, somewhere in the ether, in some non-physical realm that is like a constant, too-bright summer.

I sometimes dream about her, and in my dreams she’s breathless, excited, so happy! She has just come in from some adventure (she always wanted to travel, but didn’t really get to) and she asks me rapid fire questions about how I’m doing, my kids, what am I up to, what I’ve seen, what I’m creating. She doesn’t look a day over 40. Her smile is, as always, infectious. I answer all her questions but she won’t answer mine, only wants to hear about me. I know the time will be fleeting so I hold her tighter, try to make her stay longer, but it never works. She’s off to her next adventure and I wake up with a lingering emptiness, but a warmth. I got to see my mom.

So I’m thankful for the remembering, and sharing in the vulnerability of loss with this family. I hope their softening comes quick, although I know she was an awfully bright light, and those take longer to dim.

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