Thursday, March 3, 2011

This Mortal Coil

Whether we are shuffling off or shuffling through...the mortal in this coil reaches moments of acute intensity.

Today I accompanied Savannah to a funeral. It was for the father of her best friend. I had never met the man, although I had heard his son speak of him on more than one occasion.

We got the news on Saturday morning. That the world of someone we all cared about so deeply had been altered forever.

It breaks my heart. The funeral broke my heart. I cried and I felt emptied out and spent after.

This was my I-don't-know-what-number funeral. I've been to a few dozen, I'm sure. But this one I found quite heart-wrenching.

Maybe it's a mom thing.

I love this kid. I love him almost like he was one of my own and it kills me that he has to deal with this heavy burden and turmoil.

And it destroys me that his little brother (Gabi's age) was at the podium pouring his heart out when we entered (late--after a 30+ minute delay on the freeway to allow lifeflight to land for a horrible accident that occurred just moments ahead of us on the road) after the loudest, creakiest door in the world.

And this boy wasn't answering his phone when they tried to contact him Saturday morning with the news. While Savannah and Gabi and I were driving to Subway to get her friend a dose of his favorite comfort food, Savannah confessed to me one of her greatest fears: that something would happen and she wouldn't have her phone or wouldn't hear it and she wouldn't know.

It bowled me over to hear her so emotionally exposed. She is usually so outwardly stalwart. Part of me melted.

One of the last things the younger brother said before returning to his seat was that he'll never forget how--the night before he died--his dad called him for no reason. His dad asked how he was, who he was with and told him that he loved him.

He seemed so comforted that the last things he and his father had said to one another was that they loved each other.

After the funeral, Savannah and I revealed to one another that--no matter how unlikely it is that something unspeakable may happen--one reason we always tell/text each other (and Gabi) I love you (even unnecessarily and somewhat stalkerishly) is just-in-case. We would know that our last conversation left no doubt as to how much we loved the other.

I heard a program on NPR on Saturday (as I was driving to pick up Savannah so she could comfort her friend) about grief. The woman speaking gave one of the truest descriptions of the mourning process. She said that grief comes in waves. It doesn't come in order or stages or neatly-defined steps that end in acceptance.

Grief is as wild and awesome and overwhelming and unpredictable as the ocean. It overcomes us in waves--sometimes we see them coming and sometimes we are caught by surprise. But the comfort is that the wave always subsides and we can catch our breath.

There is no right way to grieve. And those waves come at us days or months or years after our loss--and the pain can be as acute as in those first moments that changed our world forever.

While it tears me up that I can't protect my children (or their friends) from facing the depths of loss and learning how to live with the life that follows in its wake, I am encouraged that before we drove away today they were laughing (literally) and holding on (figuratively) to one another in friendship and strength--and that is the love and acceptance that keeps us afloat in the midst of life's most overwhelming waves.

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