Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Words From the Wise

While having dinner with a 93-year old woman last night, I was hit with many realizations (and for the record, it wasn't the woman in the picture from my last post). This woman has endured countless amounts of grief in her life, yet she holds it together. She isn't defined by the grief she has experienced in her life but rather inspired by it. She jokes, laughs, smiles, and gives fantastic facial expressions to show her displeasure.

She was a bit dark, too. When speaking of outliving 2 of her 4 children, she said, "Yeah, they keeping dying off and leaving me here."

Two of her children died. Her husband died. All of her siblings (eight!) and most of her friends, dead. Her last sibling died, I think, over 30 years ago.

While there isn't a doubt she feels the pain of missing her loved ones, she still keeps her head up and manages to walk 25 minutes and 3 flights of stairs every single day. When explaining why she refuses to take the elevator, she said, "Because if I don't do these things, I will lose the privilege."

So true. Our bodies are meant to be used. We are meant to live even after the death of loved ones and in the midst of our grief. I forget this a lot. Sometimes the grief is just too heavy to get me off the couch-- luckily not as heavy as it was 6 months ago, however.

This woman has had 4 heart attacks and yet she is still very much alive. She said something so incredibly important that I have to take as a lesson in meeting her.

"There's no sense in worrying about that (death, suffering) because you can't do anything to stop it."

Losing a child makes life gain new importance. For myself, it has made me less scared of death (for myself) and more scared of losing my husband. But in reality, there isn't a thing I can do to change any of that. I have to embrace life now and love abundantly. To my husband, this means he receives more affection. I am hearing the birds sing more clearly and observing the trees blossom more boldly.

Jane gives me hope for our future. While we'll always miss our Andrew as she likely always misses her relatives, we have to keep living. But I am warning you--don't push me. While I understand the take-away from this experience, my grief and sadness is still very much reality and I'll always mourn the loss of what our son could've accomplished and grown to become. It's the nature of a parent to do so and undoubtedly an expectation when life is so suddenly cut short.

Countless country music songs tell this story on repeat-- learning lessons of life and living from someone at the end of their lives. There's a reason so many songs were devoted to the topic. None of us are or will be spared from grief. But while we still have life within our bodies, it's important to realize that we're still living, too. 

That woman has no idea she taught me anything, but she did.


Shae said... [Reply to comment]

It's always nice when someone comes along with some good ol' fashioned inspiration.
I'm glad she helped you feel a little better. :)
This post has actually inspired me in some ways. Thanks!

Solange, Nik and Caitlin said... [Reply to comment]

Wow. Such an inspiration. I'm glad she was there :)

Keleen said... [Reply to comment]

My 85 year old grandpa always tells me that he has more dead family/friends then alive ones. I can only imagine what that will feel like. I can so relate to learning some new lesson that helps (a tiny bit) with my grief, but just because I share it doesn't mean I want to be pushed into more healing, all in our own time!

Brooke said... [Reply to comment]

I love that idea of loving abundantly. And yes, even though I know it, to hear from someone else what I "need" to be doing would be hard to swallow. I hope that we both reach the point where this loss is a sad and tender part of our story instead of a dark shadow that consumes everything.

Kelly said... [Reply to comment]

Well said. I need more people like that in my life.

boo and stacy said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for this (from her). Seems so simple but hard for me to live it. I have awful anxiety too that battles in my head (mainly husband dying) and this helps and I will try to add this to my 'go to' list when I am pained with anxiety.