Gratitude in Life

As Father’s day approaches, I have been thinking about my own father and the memories we share. I’m lucky to still have my father in my life and to have the opportunity to glean his wisdom. We often get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we forget what is truly important-cultivating relationships with those who have been our biggest supporters. It’s important to cherish the relationships that we do have in life. My grandfather is no longer with us and my father often tells me how grateful he is to have spent time with him during his journey in death. I find myself moved by this and other stories of grief and loss that have entered my life this year.  Loss can offer us incredible lessons of gratitude; it can also remind us that life is too short not to nurture and cherish relationships we have with the loved ones in our present life.

Call it what you want, “grief, heartache, loss”, the feeling is uncomfortable and dark. We often try to escape it by occupying our minds or our bodies with something else. Grief  needs to be felt in order for our hearts to heal; it’s inescapable. It has happened to all of us, a powerful memory conjured from a seemingly innocuous experience at the grocery store or while driving down the road, leaving us feeling vulnerable and raw. We may experience it as a simple sigh or a few shed tears, but then there are the moments that seem to take our breath away; we find ourselves gasping for air, fighting the natural forward movement of life, wishing so hard, “I’d give anything for just one more moment”. In that very same occurrence we wish for the pain to subside, wondering if we will always feel such agony. We know though, we can never get those moments back; they are memories to be stored in our souls as a part of who we are. We know that we will move forward and the pain will ease, but at the time it just feels so heavy.

Dean Koontz put it so eloquently in The Odd Hours

Grief can destroy you –or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn’t allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. But when it’s over and you’re alone, you begin to see that it wasn’t just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can’t get off your knees for a long time, you’re driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.”

Four people, dear to my heart, lost an extraordinary man last year.  I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet him, but his presence has surrounded me since I’ve known this very special family during every day life, holiday celebrations, and family vacations. I find it very telling that I, not knowing this man, have felt his family’s pain in such a way that it reaches into the depths of my soul and touches my heart to the very core. Their stories of him emanate love; the feeling of grief over their loss is poignant. They are truly grateful for all of the love, happiness, joy, and support that his presence has added to their lives.

I’m sad to have never met this “animal” man in the flesh, but I’m so grateful that he left his legacy in the souls of the four very special people of whom I speak. He will forever live on within their hearts, minds, and souls. They are who they are because the good parts of him are captured in the essence of their core. I know it has been a painful year; my wish for them is for the  grief they are feeling to ease and may their future be filled with celebration of his life and new experiences.

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”- Helen Keller

 

In honor of Bill “Moose” Madigan and my two grandfathers Donald “Bumpa” Hayden and Michael “Pop Pop” Carlozzi, a man whom I never had the opportunity to meet in the flesh, but whose spirit and memory lives on in my family.