Today was the funeral for the father of a very good friend of mine. He fell last week, and there was a quick decline in his condition; he died the next day. All the planning that goes along with such an event, notifying family and waiting for them to arrive, making decisions, not sleeping, lots of crying…it is all so familiar to me still. Yet, I do not know what to say to her. My own father died a little over two years ago, and of course my husband 16 months ago. You’d think I’d be able to come up with something besides “I’m sorry.” I offered prayers, asked about how her Mom was doing, and said “I know it’s hard.” It feels so inadequate. And I couldn’t be there either; she’s (or I am) a thousand miles away. After everyone goes home, though, that’s when she’ll need to talk about it, I think. I’m planning a trip up her way in June, so will make it a definite stop on the way.
We’re at that age when we are losing parents now. Or that’s what we expect to happen. Grandparents leave us first, followed by aunts and uncles and our own parents, then maybe a friend here or there and older cousins. We say that if we’re lucky, then we go next, before the spouse, before the kids, and definitely before any grandbabies. And it’s all very sad and numbing in the moment. But I know people who have suffered the loss of a toddler, or a son whose time was up way too soon, or like me, a spouse in his prime. It never gets easier, never gets routine, never seems like the right thing. Death seems to raise more questions than it answers. Most of them start with Why?
Yet, we all know that the natural order is birth, life, death. It can be no other way. There is no guarantee of how long we have, whether our time here will be rags or riches, if we’ll have a legacy to leave behind or not. So we wonder what the point of it all is. And try to make sense any way we can, so we can go on until the next time.
Having wandered through this territory recently, I hoped I would have something profound and meaningful to say to my friend…and to others who are still hurting years after their losses. There are no magic words, though. There is no spoonful of sugar that can make this medicine taste better. There is no one book that gives directions on how to get through this time quickly or painlessly, or “right.”
The amazing thing about grief is how differently it is experienced by everyone. My father was not her father, and our relationships with those men were different, and we are different, and the rest of our families are made up differently, and on and on and on. But we are two women who both have lost our fathers. I only met hers maybe once or twice in all the years she and I have known each other. I’m still sad because I know the uncertainty that accompanies us as we wander in the “lost” zone, being in limbo, waiting for it all to be over…which it never really is. We learn to adjust. And as we start tinkering with the various aspects of what needs adjusting and how we go about that, we reflect on the past and guess at the future; stay connected if we can and at the same time find new connections; discover new options and decide on new directions; all adapting as make it from one hour to the next, one day to the next, one whatever to the next whatever.
My condolences go to the Schmitt and Reller families. I’ll be remembering all of you in my prayers.