For Christians, when a person dies there is two or three things that come to mind. One, is that God has decided to bring that person home. Another, is a wonderment of why God decided to take that person away from you. Third, is the human side, the pain and the grief of losing someone.
Last night, I came home exhausted at 9pm and laid down on the couch to relax and watch the World Series. My mom has been in town for the last 3 weeks and will be here for another week. She's been such a blessing for Darryl and I, we've had home cooking for the past 3 weeks. You wouldn't believe how much money I've saved on food. Not to mention the food is just better. I wonder if 30 years from now my son or daughter will come visit Ina and I and be grateful for our cooking. I find that really hard to believe. Neither of us can cooking particularly well. And yet "great home cooked meal" seems to be a constant for all generations. I guess that means my cooking skills are going to improve drastically in the next 20 years... Anyway, about my mom, she was planning to take a trip to Syracuse for the weekend, to visit some old college friends that she hadn't seen in a few years.
Boston had just taken the lead on a two-out double by Mike Lowell and I was pumping my fist in celebration. The Leafs had just beaten my Penguins and I needed something to lift my spirits. Mom couldn't understand what I was celebrating about, and went back to her room to do whatever moms do. After a little while I heard her say "Oooh!". I called out to her "What happened?", and then I heard two words. "Jean died.". There was a crack in her voice.
Brian: "Oh." Brain: "OH!".
It took about 3 seconds to register and that's when I jumped to my feet and raced over to comfort my mom, who was sobbing by the time I got there.
I remember as far back as age 6 or 7, when our family used to go over to Uncle Albert and Auntie Jean's home for fellowship. My parents were in a cell group with a few other parents that I probably wouldn't be able to name, but all of whom are likely going to be at my wedding next spring. At that time their youngest daughter Ruth probably wasn't even born yet. Rachel was around my age and her older sister Lynn was around a year or two older.
My parents went to visit her when they were here back in March. I guess they had given Uncle Albert my phone number, because after the car accident in May, he called me up to see if I was okay. He knew all about it I guess through my parents, and also even asked about how Ina was doing. It really took me by surprise because the last time I had talked to Uncle Albert was probably about 7-8 years ago. Probably one of my fondest memories of Auntie Jean was just how she always remembered things about me. All of my parents' other friends would ask me the same old things like how's school, how's your brother, things like that. But Auntie Jean always picked out specific things to ask me and so you could tell she wasn't just talking to me because I was my parents kid, she actually cared about me and how I was doing. As we got older we saw that family less and less, but whenever we did visit she'd remember me, and talk about the old days, she was a very nice lady, very kind and very loving.
Auntie Jean was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago. But I guess because I hadn't seen them in so long, it didn't affect me the way it might have, had it been someone who was 'currently' close to me. I prayed for her off and on, but most of the time I just forgot. Sometimes you just forget, when there's so much in the world to pray for.
I don't know about you guys but when I see either of my parents cry, that is a real tear jerker right there. Nothing can really prepare you to see your parents cry. I guess we are just wired that way -- we're so close to our parents that, when they feel something you feel it too, even if you shouldn't. Seeing my mom devastated by the news made it a whole lot worse for me than it really was.
You just know that none of that is helping her emotionally, because you've also lost a loved one before and none of those statements helped you feel any better either.
After hugging my mom for about 5-10 minutes, she finally stopped crying. I never know what to say to people when they're crying and dealing with grief. Crying for physical pain is a little easier to comfort, or because you hurt their feelings, that's all about just saying sorry and hugging them. But for grief, a loss of a life, that's hard. There's always those token phrases that you know just doesn't help at all, like "She is in a better place.", or "She died peacefully.", or "Don't worry we will all see her again some day.."
Mom muttered something about how she had wanted to go see her but Jean had asked that no one come visit her because she wanted them to remember her as she was, and not as she is. Then she sobbed some more and then told me how they were expecting their first grandchild in 2 weeks. Damn.
When I got back to the couch and started to think about how close Jean and Albert were to her and what it might be like for me, how could I understand or wrap my head around how she was feeling. I really wanted to empathize with those affected by this huge loss. I thought about some of our (Ina and I) closer friends, like Stan and Yee Lee, Nancy and Duncan, and how it might be like if one of them died. We've known these people for on average 5-6 years, and have grown really close to them over the past year, but my parents had been friends with Jean and Albert for 25 years. Imagining the magnitude of friendship from that standpoint fast forwarded me to the reality my mom was dealing with.
It also made me think about Jean's 3 daughters and husband, and 2 son-in-laws, and how they were feeling at this particular moment. Jean was expecting her first grandchild, due in 2 weeks. She died peacefully, with her husband and youngest daughter by her side.
These emotions stirred inside me as I prayed the night away. Grief.