Finding Joy, Despite Doubling Losses

7 03 2017

This weekend, no less than 5 times, I got to ruin an otherwise perfectly lovely conversation with a stranger.

It went like this:

Them: It was so nice to get to meet you! So what brings you to Dallas anyway?

Me: Actually… a funeral.

Them: (Frowny face) I’m sorry for your loss. 

Me: It’s okay- it was my aunt, and she lived an amazing life for 75 years, but fell ill and was praying to go, so we are truly celebrating her life. She was a joyful inspiration to me. 

Them: (perplexed) O-ohh… okay. 

 

17103530_1503487709733848_1723492595264449756_nFor the most part, it was entirely accurate. My Aunt Suzanne’s service was filled with stories of adolescent debauchery, laughter, incredibly fond memories, and… more tears came from laughing than crying. Which is exactly how I hope my own life celebration will go (after I hurl myself from a plane at age 85 and slyly ‘forget’ to open my parachute).

 

I barely shed a tear, knowing how much Suzanne inspired myself-  and clearly many others- to live each day to the fullest, to be joyful, and- most of all- to be grateful for every chance we are given to experience our lives. From my earliest memories, Suzanne was a bastion of joy. She taught me to love, laugh, & forgive. She was literally THE MOST grateful person I have ever met to this day. I love her, and will miss her, but I know that she has made her mark on this world, and fulfilled her destiny.

 

Today, 2 days after we buried the vessel Suzanne’s soul was born into, we flew back home to Indianapolis. I ended up sitting apart from my wife, due to the last minute booking. So, after the pre-flight chatter had subsided, I pulled out my journal, plugged in my earbuds, and listened to music while I wrote.

 

At first, I wrote about what had happened. Then, I wrote about what I thought. Finally I wrote about what I FELT. If you’ve never done free-writing, you should. It’s very liberating to just keep writing without editing. You’ll be amazed at what comes out.

 

What did I learn?

17098194_1503487736400512_6181040724228158408_nMy father was the baby of his family- the youngest of three- before his father remarried and my aunt Tina was born. But in his early days, it was just him and two older sisters. Both of his older sisters have now passed, and he chose not to come to the funeral this weekend. Many family members and close friends of Suzanne’s asked me, “Is Mike coming?” I had to sheepishly shrug my shoulders and admit, “I don’t know.”

 

You see, my father cut all contact with my family 4 years ago, and stopped returning my calls. So I had no idea if I would see him this past weekend or not. I had a hunch the answer would be NO. My dad is a Narcissist, and 71 years old. So, I had a feeling that, despite being the ‘baby,’ seeing his 2nd sister be buried would be extra tough on him. Narcissists don’t like to feel tough emotions. Physical pain is okay, but emotional pain should just not exist.

Composed 6.March.2017:

Hovering in a soft, billowing sea of white,

blanketed in the familial love I left behind,

I imagine the loved ones waiting ahead

to welcome me home with open arms.

Somewhere in the vast middle

I fly over a strange, misty land,

an abstract place I’m unable to pinpoint,

where my genetic roots have migrated,

settling into shaky, water-logged soil.

I feel the gravitational pull, downward,

heavy on my iron heart.

I fear this entire vessel may go down,

crashing into an ocean of uncertainty.

But I refuse to lose myself to this dark, chromosome abyss. 

I leave behind only a dozen drops of salt water

hovering softly, in a sea of white. 

-KRW

On the plane today, leaving Durant, OK, leaving Dallas, TX, I quickly realized that I did not just bury my aunt Suzanne this weekend. I buried my father too. This was my last chance to see him in person, to forgive him, and to say goodbye, because in my heart I know that- had he come- it would have been the last time I would see my father.

 

I worked hard to prepare for this encounter. In my mind, I knew exactly how it would play out:

He would see me, and pretend nothing had ever happened. Like he didn’t just pick up and move his new family to another state without telling us, or giving us a forwarding address, or his new phone number. He would embrace me, and I would let him. My residual anger would well up inside me, but I would quell it silently. He would ask something simple like, “how are you?” And I would respond, despite my consternation. Despite the fact that he RSVP’d “No” to his own son’s wedding last fall.

I would remind myself that his condition, being a narcissist, is not dissimilar from his condition as an alcoholic, and  I must pity him instead of loathe him. I would miss his smile, and notice how much he has aged since I saw him last. I would grow sad, seeing that the sparkle in his eyes has become dull and bleary, and I would register that his once optimistic glow had been replaced by a din of drudgery. I wouldn’t ask him how his wife is, since she was partly to blame for our estrangement, but I would secretly wish love and joy back into his life. I would remember to hold him a few extra seconds as we hugged goodbye, squeezing him tightly, so he knew how much I loved him, knowing that it wold be our last hug ever.

17156261_1509314955817790_3514213970339020780_n

That never happened, sadly. Instead, I will remember burying my father’s sister, and thinking more about my own dad. I stood by the burial plots of my family, and pondered whether or not my dad had reserved a plot for himself next to his own father and sister. I would not expect him to plan far enough ahead to be buried with his own wife or children. He would just buy enough space for himself- if anything. As we lifted off and flew away from my ancestors’ burial sites, it really hit home. I may not even know when I lose my father. He may pass from liver disease this week, or this year, or next, but his estrangement leaves us out in the cold.

 

So, I remind myself- and you- to be mindful. Be grateful. Be joyful!! Know that every day is a gift, and every day could be your last. Don’t waste them being petty or holding grudges, or judging others for their actions. Their motives may be confusing, but we each walk our own path. Just do what you can to make this world a little bit kinder, and don’t hesitate to say, “I love you.”

 

 

Advertisements

Actions

Information

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: