This week marks the 2 year anniversary of the hardest week of my life. Even as I write that, I wonder – was it really the hardest? Maybe not the most stressful in some ways, but yes, definitely the hardest.
In the span of 5 days I grieved the death of two family members. My 95-year-old Nanny, whose decline was rapid but somewhat expected, and Dean’s dad – the most loving and wise father-in-law I could ever have asked for, and whose death was the greatest shock of our lives. With his passing, we became the unfortunate recipients of ‘the dreaded call’ in the middle of the night.
These days, those memories carry far less sting and heaviness than they have in the past. Time has helped to heal my grief, although the sadness certainly lingers. And today, I find myself marvelling at how life overlaps – simultaneously being in memory of people and past – while being in the middle of our busy, multifaceted life.
While I do personally believe that there is a ‘design’ to our lives, and that everything does happen for a reason (although we may not always grasp what that may be), I don’t have gratitude that we have lost loved people from our lives. When I let myself drop into the memories fully, I feel deeply saddened by missing them. I wish that my Nanny would still be living in her house in Placentia, Newfoundland when Dean, Ethan, Audra and I travel there for the first time as a family. And I miss the frequent phone calls from Dean’s dad, his teasing ways, and his standard but heartfelt “Love you, sweetie” goodbye. I miss the yearly visits and great conversations. I miss Dean’s dad.
Based on my own beliefs, I could draw comfort from knowing that they are in a loving and beautiful place – and I do. I’m sure that losing someone you love would be an entirely different experience if there was no belief in the concept that our spirits live on. But I am sad for us – for those of us who miss people who have left. I am sad for my children – that they had such finite contact with these two prominent people; I am sad for my mom and her siblings and extended family, and I am sad for Dean’s mom. Losing people leaves a hole that will never be replaced.
No, I don’t have gratitude that we no longer have those people in our lives. But – I do have gratitude to know that we were able to weather that storm together as a family. I do take comfort in seeing that other family members also miss their presence, and in doing so, bring us closer together. I am strengthened by knowing that our kids have witnessed and experienced deep grief, and still found healthy ways to express themselves and grow through the pains. I admire my extended family, and especially my husband, Dean and my mother-in-law, Diane for the fortitude and resiliency they have shown despite heartbreak.
If it were up to me, and I could bring loved ones back, I would do so. I would choose to have Dean’s dad in our lives for many more years. We weren’t ready for his passing, and even now – 2 years later – his presence is missed in our lives.
I wish he were here now to see Audra turn 11 years old tomorrow. I wish our kids could share with him their enthusiasm over their 3-hour bike adventure today after school. I wish he could tease Ethan about his long and shaggy hair, and tell Audra to slow down her desire to be a teenager.
I can imagine how our lives could be different if they were still alive. The loss of my grandmother and father-in-law will forever be linked in my mind, simply because they occurred in such close proximity to each other and they were the hardest losses I have ever experienced.
Two years later sometimes feels like a lifetime has passed. We have relocated across the country, started our lives over in Nova Scotia, and set our roots deeply into being here for good. Life has its challenges still – it is busy, sometimes bringing unexpected challenges, or unanticipated joys. Life here -now and then – has been both joyful and heartbreaking.
Perhaps that is life, after all. Good and bad, pain and joy, birth and death -all are natural parts of life. I for one would rather embrace it all, remembering each moment poignantly, and being grateful for the time we still have with those we love.
With deepest love and appreciation for everyone in our lives, both past and present – thank you. We love you forever.