After receiving word that my grandfather is not likely to live long enough to attend his 70th Wedding Anniversary party, I decided to take a quick trip to visit him one last time. Mind you, I have had several “last visits” with my energizer grandfather so I remain positive that he will indeed hold out for both his 94th birthday and his Anniversary party in June.
Traveling by minivan (I am a mom you know!) with my mom and twin sons in tow, we headed off for our “last visit.” We were chased by tornadoes and through a horizon of dirt devils into the land of some of my fondest childhood memories – a small farming community in Nebraska. When we arrived last week at his assisted care facility we found my grandmother and grandfather nestled in an interior room. Safe from the tornadoes they were sitting among 15 of their aging peers. The staff was hovering around, and a dog named Lucky shuffled out to greet us, surprising my son Mitchell with quite a kiss. I asked my grandfather, “How are you?” to which he replied, “Thunderstruck.” Relieved, I thought to myself, he’s still here.
(The photo is my grandfather in his youth.)
As my grandfather’s life is nearing an end, and Memorial Day fast approaches, it seems fitting that this month I should focus on love and loss. Many of you reading this now are likely thinking of someone very dear to you whom you can no longer pick up the phone and call. I hope you’ll spend an intentional moment now, remembering one of your very favorite memories of this person.
Contrary to popular belief, death is not actually the end of a relationship. Death does, however, change HOW we relate to our loved ones. Our memories are what connect us to that which we have lost. Despite a person’s physical absence from our life, we continue to relate to them in unique and very personal ways through our relationship to our memories of them. In my favorite book on grief, Deborah Coryell writes about her deceased father, “Each day of my life the love I have for my father has gotten bigger, unimpeded by his physical absence.” She goes on to explain, “No one ever told me that ‘growing’ the love we have for someone is not dependent upon their being physically alive.” She summarizes this thought with, “Grieving asks that we be fully present in our thoughts and then to choose, responsibly, those thoughts that honor the relationship for which we grieve.”