Death can be like a wild fire that steals away people we have connected and grown close to. It turns things we love into ash leaving us to deal with feelings of sadness and loss that can seem endless. After my mother died in 2001, I fully understood how deep the pain of loss reaches; this is when I also learned that the pain of losing someone deeply loved never completely ceases–true love has no end.
I had prepared for my mother’s death. We had briefly discussed it many years prior. While sitting in the car with her one night gazing at the glow of her cigarette, she began to explain what I was to do once she was gone. I executed the plan she had outlined perfectly—wrote the obituary, designed the program and held back the tears–my own addition to her instructions.
Even still, the fire left my mind panicked and my heart aching. My mother wouldn’t be there when I finished graduate school that upcoming year; she will never spend a night in my home; she won’t walk down the aisle at my wedding; she will never meet my wife or hear my children call her “Grandma”; and my children will never directly know her voice or her touch.
I attempted to find someone to take her place. As a result, I experienced more pain because I realized that no substitution would ever measure up to the original. I was wrong to ever expect anyone to be capable of replacing her. Foolishly, I rejected the love of people who truly cared because I refused to settle for anything less than what Genevieve had given me.
Have you ever walked through a forest that has turned green again after being ravaged by fire? or Have you ever stood inside a house that has been rebuilt after being engulfed in flames? Even though the 100-year-old towering oak is a charred stump and the fireplace where we once hung Christmas stockings is now a pantry, we must push past the pain to see hope and beauty in the new things–the new people– even though they are not the same as what was before.
As is often said, the grieving process takes time but even after the deluge has ended, there will be days when our hearts become heavy with longing, and our eyes fill with tears. The pain dulls, but I can’t promise that it ever completely ceases. These painful yet tender moments are valuable because remembering can bring a greater appreciation for what was lost and a more clear revelation of what has been gained.
After losing someone we cherish, we are often able to find perspective on the more trivial aspects of life, which move us forward, toward living in greater appreciation of what really matters. I call death the great interrupter; it can suspend temporarily, but it does not have the power to stop us from moving forward unless we allow it to.