I have to say that I’ve been somewhat fortunate in my life to have known limited sorrow. When I was younger and my grandmothers died, I thought it was due to being old. Of course, now that my mother is older than either would ever become, I know they were not old. I feel sad for the loss of knowing one, my Grandma Conn. The other, however, was scary. The reason became clear after her death, but that’s another story. The same with my grandfather’s passing. He was older and had a bad heart. It was sad, but not tragic.
My father’s passing was not exactly unexpected; although it was a surprise. He was due for another round of open heart surgery. He didn’t want it. I knew that. His life had rarely been easy for him. There were a lot of obstacles in his path. While I knew he was sick, I always assumed there’d be one more day. In fact he told me that his last night when I went off to do something — we’ll do it tomorrow. Well…
There isn’t always tomorrow.
This is the tragedy of death for the survivors. There wasn’t that last day. I think of this as Carol, my tribe-member from Olinder, called me to let me know that her brother was in the hospital. Last week was the four-year anniversary of her daughter’s death and the eight-year anniversary of her sister’s. I know this weighs heavily on her. It makes her hurt in ways that others can’t imagine. She is family oriented — she loves the family dinner — with a family that continues to get smaller. Her pain is obvious. Yet, what platitude do you deliver to someone who’s lost their husband, child, and sibling who may lose another? She is silent in her sadness. After all, I think she thinks, what do you say? What is left to say? Is this how it is when you’re really old and everyone has gone before you? But Carol’s not old…
My own family has faced the tragedy of the unexpected death many times in the last two years. Rather than circle the wagons to protect what’s left, each tends to erect a bunker with a huge, barbed wire fence, a moat, and a grenade launcher. In sadness that seems too deep to touch, we dare each other to come near us for condolence; then lament that there is no one there to ease the pain. We play martyr to whom? ….and for what cause?
I think we mark the passing of the years for loved ones whose deaths “make sense” to us. For the tragedies, though, we sit in fear of what the day will do to us. Time circling back to deliver the blow fresh, as though time never passed. With tragedy death we take on guilt. We ascribe blame. We try desperately to make sense of the senseless. We rail against the circle of life because it didn’t spin the way we expected it too.
It just now occurs to me, if love is a warm blanket; then sorrow is a fog that envelopes our house. We just need to remember, that behind the clouds is the sun.