The two most traumatic events I’ve experienced in a life that has seen its fair share of traumatic events are the deaths of my parents. When Daddy died on October 15, 1998, I went into protection and taking-care-of mode for Mama, suppressing the real nuts and bolts of my own grieving process over Daddy’s death so that I could give Mama my full support, help, comfort, and care.
I didn’t realize, at the time, that’s what I had done, because it seemed natural to me and I didn’t know how to do things any differently.
I’ve always struggled with juggling more than one emotional reaction at a time. Perhaps it’s because I have such a laser-focused, black-and-white, either/or temperament. Or perhaps it’s because my emotional reactions are so strong, so deep, and so intense, there’s no room left for anything else until I’ve processed them and worked my way through them. Or perhaps it’s the combination of the two.
I’ve always tried to keep the deeply sensitive, deeply feeling side of me under control and under wraps, unknown and unseen by a world that delights in ripping the tenderhearted to shreds and does everything in its power to crush and destroy them, simply because it is so easy to do.
I choose not to wear my heart on my sleeve, although that would be completely natural for me to do. I get hurt easily and sometimes even words spoken casually or that are not meant to be unkind shatter my heart into a million little pieces. But I keep all that to myself, putting on a face of being brave and unfazed, pretending I’m still standing, when, in in fact, emotionally my legs have been taken out from under me. Again.
So I didn’t know how to grieve for Daddy and be there for Mama at the same time, so I chose to be there for Mama. I dreamed a lot about Daddy (now I dream about Mama and him both quite often). He’d show up, but he never said anything, but his presence was enough comfort for me.
When Mama died seven years ago today at 5:50 pm EST, I took a deep breath and steeled myself to do what needed to be done.
The phone calls and emails. Helping the hospice nurse get Mama ready for the funeral home to pick her up. Talking with the funeral home staff about an appointment for funeral arrangements the next day. Working with the hospice nurse to dispose of all the medications they had provided.
Funeral arrangements. The funeral service. The graveside service. Burial. Wrapping up Mama’s life, paying any bills that were left, notifying Social Security, cancelling credit cards, getting death certificates, making sure everyone had digital copies of family pictures and digital copies of her funeral service.
The first wave of the tsunami of grief didn’t hit me until I was finally alone for an extended period of time, which was either at the end of September or the beginning of October of 2012, about six weeks after Mama had died.
And, even though I didn’t understand this then, along with grieving for losing Mama, I finally began to grieve for losing Daddy as well.
Seven years later, although the waves have gotten smaller, the tsunami of grief remains. At least for me. I lost both of my physical anchors in this life. I lost the only two human beings in the universe who loved me unconditionally and had proven it beyond a shadow of a doubt time and again. I lost the only two people I ever really truly mattered to. And not only did I lose both of my parents, I lost two trusted and wonderful friends.
Today, August 14, 2019, the rest of world goes on blithely, unaware and not caring that this is the death anniversary of my mama. That’s not their fault, but it speaks to the timeless wisdom and perspective of Solomon in Ecclesiastes (which I’ve been reading and thinking about this week).
Our human lives are nothing but vanity and chasing the wind. In the end, they – in their physical sense – amount to zero. As Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 reminds us, “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.”
Our lives are a vapor, and when they are over, it’s as though we never existed. No one remembers and no one cares. We could have not been born at all and nobody would even notice.
Solomon was the wealthiest man in the world. He pursued every bit of materialism and hedonism that he could find and, in the end, he proclaimed it nothing but vanity and chasing the wind.
We live in a world that is materialistic, hedonistic, and boastful. With the advent of social media, the concept of one-upmanship has reached a whole new level.
It screams look at me. Look how important (or intelligent, or saintly, or wise, or you name it) I am. Look at this great thing I did. Look at my nice things. Look at all my travels. Look at how awesome and wonderful I am and my life is – and I am better than all of you and my life is better than all your lives.
People don’t even realize this is what they are saying and doing. It’s just what society does now, and it is a natural tendency in our natures to be this way.
Yet a man that even the best of the boasters couldn’t even begin to hold a candle to said it’s sum is zero. That’s perspective.
I live an invisible life. If I died or disappeared, no one would even notice. Or care. That’s what Solomon was talking about. It’s nothing but reality, and I’m okay with that.
But, in my memories, my heart, and my hope and faith for the future, my daddy and mama are not zeroes. Even if I am the only human on this planet who remembers them, that counts for something. When I die, their memories will die with me, but until then a part of them lives on in me.
I miss you, Mama, and I love you. The world is a lot less brighter without you here, but this is a world that you and Daddy wouldn’t recognize and it would break your hearts as much as it breaks mine. Rest well. I’ll see you soon.