You may be thinking, "Why would I want to honor loss?" It's such a bad feeling, but it is part of our lives, as sure as is breathing.
Over the life span of this blog, you will probably read more than one entry about loss. It's because we all experience it, and we do so in many ways. Throughout our lives we all lose loved ones, animals, things, experiences, hopes and dreams. But why dwell on it, you may wonder? It is important because it shapes the very fabric of who we become.
From early on, when we lose our first teddy bear, to the present when we lose our keys, loss invokes a sense of hopelessness, frustration, anger and maybe even despair, when the stakes are high. Surely our personal temperament adds a layer to how we cope. Being organized helps us not to lose our "stuff," and is an easy strategy, within our control, that we can employ to reduce these negative feelings.
When loss is thrust upon us and not in our control however, it shakes our foundations. We can't do anything to stop it, control it, prevent it. When loss is premature, it is somehow more unfair. When a life is well lived and fruitful, we accept loss with a little more understanding.
This past month, a dear friend passed away after a decades-long bout with cancer. It kept coming in new places and she kept on seeking treatments, conventional and unconventional. What was striking is how she lived with this incurable disease. She had so much left to do in her life, and cancer wasn't going to interfere (only temporarily during treatments). She reported the latest medical news of the past year each summer, where we saw her at our lake cabin in Maine. Each summer in past years, as I knew the cancer stubbornly kept returning with greater vengeance, I feared she would not be at the lake. In the last 2 summers, my fears were realized as she was in too much pain to make the long trip. Instead, I visited her upstate NY where she lived year 'round.
In spite of horrific pain that not even morphine would control, she continued to make her plans from the couch: another article to be mailed, a story to be written (she was a writer). I hurt for her, mostly saddened to see what cancer had done to her body, and fearful of how much more time I would have with her, all the while not wanting her to suffer. The doctors could not explain how she held out in the past years as her condition was so frail and she was riddled with cancer in every organ and bone of her body. She simply wasn't ready to die, I reasoned.
Last week I tried calling her house numerous times and got no answer. I had a feeling, and kept trying. She had been in and out of the hospital and I assumed she was back in . . . . or worse. Finally the call came on Saturday, that she passed away the previous Friday - when I began calling her home.
Her family tried to find my phone number, knowing I would want to know, and that their mother wanted me to know. Just in time, we got the call that the memorial service was the following day. I sobbed only when we first sat down in the church. Once the service began, I felt a warm embrace from my friend, for she was still looking after those who loved her.
She loved music. She raised her children with music all around, and produced several talented musicians among them. Various family members played and sang just the right music, spoke the right words and prayers and later at the reception, showed photos from her life, set to music. Indeed, this was a fitting tribute and celebration of an amazing life, that we were all privileged to share.
So while I will miss her, I am grateful for being chosen to share in her life. She had enough love for a family with six siblings, six children, a dozen grandchildren and a great-granddaughter, to give some to her many friends. I am blessed to have been one of them.
So I say to my dear friend Joy, who was so appropriately named by her parents, be at rest now after your painful journey; embraced by the love of everyone you loved here on earth.