A concluding word or as a response to a prayer.
Also used colloquially to express strong agreement.
It is true. And let it be so.
With a pandemic claiming lives from the unsuspecting, I think now is an appropriate time, during this holiday season, to talk about grief. I learned much about this unwelcome topic after experiencing four significant losses in 14 months. My losses were difficult in and of themselves; but together they forced me into an abysmal numbness.
I found it difficult to sort through my swirling emotions.
I found it difficult to accept that people who were just here, were now gone.
I found it difficult to know how to best support those closest to these Significant Ones.
Samuel was the first. He was 19 years old and the son of one of my best friends. I met Samuel when he was six years old. He and my son got into an argument at recess over the rules of soccer. Samuel was from Louisiana and the new kid in the class. As far as he was concerned soccer was stupid. “In Louisiana we play football,” he had said. The teacher called me, which then led to me calling Samuel’s mom, who suggested we gather our hoodlum sons at a park for a play date. I had never met someone so gracious as Samuel’s mother, and as a result, a deep friendship developed between the two of us. As the years continued, she and I would often process life’s difficulties over chocolate martinis.
Samuel was on his way to Nashville on July 25, 2017, to visit his sister when he offered a hitchhiker a ride. That was the last anyone saw of Samuel. I was horrified. And there are no words to describe how his parents felt-feel. Samuel’s trial finally happened this past summer, four years after his death and during the same week his life was taken. I suppose the guilty verdict provided some closure, as life, however tragic it might be, must go on, right?
Jakin was next. He was 24 years old and the son of another one of my dearest friends. Jakin was my oldest son’s best friend, was like a big brother to my youngest son, and an employee of my husband’s. Jakin was working on his beloved Mustang when he and a friend left to purchase a car part. The accident happened October 7, 2017, a few miles from his parents’ home. Jakin was the passenger, sitting on the side that slammed into the tree. Again, I was horrified. And again, there are no words to describe how his parents felt-feel.
The third Significant One was my sweet funny grandmother. She served a critical role in my life as she intervened on behalf of my siblings and me, resulting in our biological father being stripped of all parenting rights. I was five or six at the time. I do not remember ever missing my bio father. My grandmother was the most courageous beautiful person I knew. She changed the trajectory of my life for the better. I loved her dearly.
I thought I was ready for her passing on April 18, 2018. She was just shy of 100 and had lived a full life. I was glad she would finally be free of her daily pain. But on the day of her funeral, I found myself filled with emotions I could not contain. Tears poured when my grandmother’s casket rolled past on the way out of the funeral parlor. On the way out of life.
And then, on September 14, 2018, my brother, age 57, unexpectedly died. I felt numb when I received that call. I remember just wanting to be still. Memories of his kindness stood out, especially in the last years as we had more genuine conversations than ever. My brother’s employer, Southwest Airlines, transported his casket from Indiana to Missouri as if he were royalty, conducting a water canon solute and period of silence as employees lined the runway. Fellow employees remained by my brother’s side until he was buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery. We would later learn that my brother had had an undetected heart condition.
I knew little about grief before this 14-month period. I had experienced loss before, but never so up close and within a compacted time. I hurt for my two friends as they grieved their young sons, and I hurt for my sister-in-law who had been married to my brother for 35 years—most of her life. It all seemed so ruthless. I was learning to just be present with loved ones as they uniquely navigated this unknown territory; and to listen and to cry, and to include names in conversations, as if to say, “They are still significant.”
Now, as we transition into yet another holiday season, I ask, “How does one—in the face of grief—face holidays of thanksgiving, holy nights, and new beginnings?”
As a Toastmaster learning better communication skills, and simply as a human being, I naturally want to speak and provide meaningful words, especially to those who are hurting. But in the darkness of grief, I am learning to just be present with the discomfort by offering silence—to my loved ones and to myself—as a flicker of eternal light.
image by Prateek Gautam, Unsplash