The Full Weight of Loss
I know we are supposed to embrace change, and that it is the only constant in life, but change often feels like loss to me — especially when change comes in bunches, like it has this year.
My grandmother died twelve years ago last week. I drove past her old house on the way to church yesterday morning and I don’t even recognize it.
Her once well-kept lawn is overgrown with weeds. Her front porch, the place of so many conversations over a cold glass of ice tea, is now hidden behind a privacy fence. The yard we played in as grandchildren is filled with junk.
Those changes weigh on me.
It takes me a little over thirty minutes to get to church now because we sold our building recently and are remodeling another facility. During the interim, we’re meeting with a sister church in another city.
I wasn’t completely attached to the old building because I have only been going there for four years. But my mom attended a couple of events there with me, and those moments are precious memories.
And a writers group I’m affiliated with held a couple of writers conferences in that old building.
A friend who taught with me at the first conference died last year after a battle with cancer. I have a picture of us standing side by side in the basement of that facility and she looks like the picture of health. We had no way of knowing she wouldn’t live long enough to attend the conference the following year.
Leaving that old building behind weighs on me.
A month or so ago, I went fishing with my buddy, Shawn, at his cabin in central Nebraska for the last time. He sold the cabin a week or two later (and he’s considering a move from the area).
For the past four years, we’ve gone fishing there on Memorial Day and the place has grown on me.
We always stop first in Central City to buy bait at Central True Value Hardware. The owners have a 19-year-old cat named Pockets who roams the store. When I asked about him this year, the clerk told me Pockets was having a bad day, so he was curled up behind the counter. The hardware store won’t be the same after Pockets passes away.
After we leave the hardware store, we head for the cabin. For a city boy, that’s always so exciting. You’ll never find me on the cover of “Field & Stream” because I love the air conditioning too much, but sitting by the lake and fishing with Shawn while shooting the breeze makes it one of my favorite days of the year.
The water is so calm that you can see your bobber move when even the smallest fish in the world starts messing with your bait. I’m speaking from experience. But I’ve caught a few big fish there, too.
Knowing that Memorial Day 2016 will be spent elsewhere weighs on me.
Last week, we lost Elisabeth Elliot. I’ve already written about how much that has affected me. The old guard of the faith is moving on to glory, and I’m not quite sure how to relate to the new guard.
That weights on me, too.
Two friends have also lost their mothers this year. In fact, I’m attending the funeral for one of them this afternoon. It’s not surprising since most of my friends are near fifty, but as we lose the generation before us, a certain knowing settles in.
We can never go back to Christmases past, or birthdays past, or anything past — and there will be no more futures with these people and/or places. In all of the cases I mentioned above, I have the memories, but I can never return to the scene to relive them.
For the non-sentimental, you are probably asking “Why not just start new traditions and make new memories?” And you are right, of course, but I still need to feel the full weight of the losses first.
6/29/2015 03:37:48 am
Thanks for this insightful post, Lee. This year, I have been going through several transitions - which also feel like loss. It's a good reminder to admit them, own them and then grieve them.
6/29/2015 07:51:21 am
Good stuff. I'm in the owning them stage, I think.
6/29/2015 04:38:55 am
This is terrific, Lee. You're right to lean into the grief, loss, sentimentality and feel its full weight. In doing so, you're showing gratitude for the blessings the memories, the people, and the places hold in your heart. That will make it easier to let go and transition to new beginnings when you feel ready. Blessings.
6/29/2015 06:25:05 am
So true. It has been a difficult year in many ways. Thank you for sharing your heart.
6/29/2015 07:49:57 am
That is so good, Linda -- "showing gratitude for the blessings, the memories, the people, and the places" is exactly how I feel. Thank you for articulating that.
7/17/2015 06:22:56 am
It was good for me to read The Full Weight of Loss post today. I'm in the process of losing right now. Losing parents. I'm 56, and thankful that i've had them for so long. But watching their struggle is difficult as they age and deal with disabilities. This change is difficult. I just wrote this today about my recent visit with them in upstate NY...."my heart is incredibly sad. It is so heavy. I left NY with such a mix of emotions and I’m still trying to sort them out. Trying to let myself feel them without being afraid of them. I love my mother and father so much. I see them hurting so much. I see Mom so numb. And Dad so stuck. And sad. And afraid. And I’m broken hearted. As a 56 year old daughter, everyday that I was there I was thankful that I could walk downstairs in the morning and sit and have a cup of coffee with my dad. I could still drive up to the rehab hospital and sit outside with my mother, and watch the rain, and talk about the different shades of green in the trees, and walk along the edge of Chittenago creek while I pushed her in her wheel chair. I felt thankful. And happy. And so sad at the same time. Trying to keep in my mind that one day I will see them differently. A wheelchair will not define my mother forever. One day, I believe I will see my father run. A young man with dark hair and no lines in his face. And laugh a laugh that is not short lived. And see my mother’s heart be filled with contentedness. But now, I know time is forcing me to let go of something. I don’t want to let go of them, but I know that’s okay….to not want to let go. And I can’t stop this train. There is this relentless passage of time, and it’s fleeting, and so much change, and some days that’s okay, and some days it’s not, and i’m so thankful God is changeless. "
7/17/2015 07:45:40 am
Love your perspective.
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