Life Lessons from Loss and Death
I'm still learning so many things after the death and loss of people I love, especially my husband, William. I wish I could be definitive, and say the lessons are final, but they are not. As soon as I think I've booked a lesson and can move on, a grief drive-by occurs, and I realize I'm still learning. Here are 5 lessons:
Lesson 1: Memories Fade
It's hard to believe that little things you experience day in, and day out are traveling further in the distance. You think they NEVER will - no way on your watch, but time erodes them. When I see a picture, a video, or hear a story, I will bring a remembrance back, but some things are losing prominence. The person, you never forget, but all the little, tiny, ever-present details are slipping away.
Case in point, I saw a picture of my husband’s hand and the fingernails, the ridges, the small scars -- the little things that my history knows the when, the why and how’s. I don't think about these things anymore and they disappear as irrelevant in my brain. He’s not irrelevant, but those thousand little memories of his hand have become.
The memories of the details fade into the distance during my present. Life in the now, overshadows the life of then. That lesson hurts, because in all the love we hold dear, the present and living have a way of doing that. One of my most treasured loved ones, William Helm said, “you'll forget me.” I said, “NEVER!” Maybe through all of his grief, he understood more than I did about the forgetting of the little things.
Lesson 2: Grief and Heartache
To know love is tremendous. We personify it with the person, but love is bigger than the person. When they are gone, we don't know how to grab the parts of it that aren't bound by that missing body, voice, and touch. We throw aside the corny jokes remembered, the lessons and wisdom given, the children born from their lovemaking, and all of those left behind treasures that take a back seat, to them missing.
One day I will be gone, and I want my loved ones to process the pain, but then live on. I hope there will be something in my lessons that will allow their tears and pain to flow, but push them to also get up and keep moving. The people in my life who knew they were dying and leaving me didn't fixate on that aftermath of their being gone. They loved me in real-time. They kept dancing at the party until the music stopped.
I'm sure they wanted to talk about their fears and regrets, but they didn't want to start the agony before it had to begin. For those movies where parents dying with young children wrote notes for different milestones or made videos - I love that idea. You get to have them even after they're gone. I know I treasure all the Bible teachings and Sermon videos of Rev. Helm. I can hear his voice, hear the wisdom of his teaching, hear him talk of me, or tell a quirky story for the 100th time. Grief and heartache cannot be ignored, they both have to be lived. You must understand that part of living is processing dying.
Lesson 3: Overcoming Fear
Fear is a trap of lost hope. I've stumbled down the road of fear because I didn't know what was around the corner for me. Having my missing loved one didn't change the unknowns, but there was a change in the walking. Before the loss, I had a companion-i-chief. I had someone physically walking the journey with me. Before you think it - I know GOD is always there and a key in my life. In losing someone in death, my life support changed.
My corner of experience that made me feel connected, supported, understood, and valiant was summoned away. They were summoned never to return to me. The loss made me feel small and more vulnerable. Before the loss, I felt having GOD and my husband made me impenetrable and invincible. What a shield of protection. I had such strength and faith.
With my loved one gone, I had only GOD. Was I fearful GOD alone wasn’t enough? Did I fear the reality of Him seeing how frail I felt? I knew in my loss of my husband he was the stronger and me the weaker. That's the beauty of having two in battle with separate armor. The two becoming one flesh can take the battle side-by-side and offset each other’s weaknesses.
Overcoming fear asked the question, “who would offset my weaknesses now?” In the lesson of the after, I had to trust GOD wholeheartedly in ways I hadn’t done since my youth. Big Anita had forgotten what GOD had done in little Anita with the loss of my dad. He overcame my blind spots emotionally. With the death of my dad, I felt orphaned, even though I had a mom. GOD showed me HE WAS MY PARENT. With the loss of my husband, I felt alone, even though I had my children. HE showed me I AM YOUR HOME.
Fear and pain personify vulnerabilities that were covered up under walls that the loved one's presence painted over. Sure, after the losses in my life I kept one foot in front of the other on the outside, but what was going on within was vastly different. GOD was seeing masking tape on the outside as HE was working on filling the fractures inside my heart. HE was suring up me, until I could feel complete again with just HIM.
Lesson 4: Keep Hope
Hopelessness is not a solution. In death know that the destination of hopelessness is depression and crumbling. Keep hope. Fight for it even when you feel hollowed out. Remember your loved one would never want you LOST as the consequence of them dying. They died having hope you would survive this blow
Find hope and chain it to your being. If you question how to find hope start with thanking GOD about everything about the one who you lost. Our loved ones are not lost to HIM. Begin to thank GOD for every little thing they meant to you. In your thankfulness, you will drip vapors of hope in the hollows of your pain. You will in due time, find a pouring of gratefulness to GOD for the gift He gave to you. That gratefulness will pick your chin upward to Him who stills you. Him who gives to you. Him who loves you. In Him will you find true HOPE.
Lesson 5: Questioning
There's a lot of questioning that you can't put into words. The agony of loss is not for words, but in tears and unmet longings. You can't put death’s questioning to paper, and in reality, you don't know how to put them forward. What now? How? Can I? Do I want to? Why now? GOD, will you? When? What if?
If the questioning is hard - how about the answers, the silence, the waiting? Questioning and the process of it all can be crushing. There lies one of the mysteries of death and loss.
I will stop now because there is someone further down this road that must have answers. I, dear one, am not there yet.