The Loss of Family Members: A Personal Journey
It’s the holiday season again and for my family, it was our first Christmas without our mother. I am a psychiatrist and through the years have helped many people who have experienced the loss of family members. But, as we all know, it is a personal journey and is unique to each one of us. I have come to see that even within my family the loss of our mother, and our ongoing experience of the loss, is quite different.
Personally, I was struck by the release I felt just after her last breath. I experienced a closeness with her that wasn’t possible while we were both alive. She now knows my every thought and feeling. She is with me quite literally always. Recently, my father found the “Eagle Necklace” she wore after my parents helped me become an Eagle in the Boy Scouts. It now hangs over the rearview mirror of my car symbolizing she is with me wherever I go.
My three brothers each in their own unique manner have responded to our mother’s death in ways that impress me beyond words. In her last few days, the openness of their love and the many kindnesses they shared with her were truly humbling. Even now, the commitment they have shown my father has taken the love that has always been there to a new level.
And then there’s my father. He and my mother married when she was only fifteen and he a very young 20. As with most marriages, they had been through heaven and hell, particularly given the challenge of four rambunctious boys. Through it all there was a connection they shared that I wasn’t fully aware of…until now. While she is our mother, she is his wife, his girlfriend, his life mate, his lover and now, his spiritual partner.
An Unceasing Love
The depth of their love was again made clear as we all got together for our Christmas Eve dinner. My brother asked that we each make our Christmas cards this year. In my card to him I wrote, “She lives because of the love the two of you shared. Thank-you!” But again, the expression of their love had another surprise for us.
We were just about to starting eating when he began preparing a “to go plate”. More than a little confused we asked, “What’s up?” He told us that he was preparing a plate for our mother. You see, our mother is buried on a hill overlooking our homes and he often “leaves her a snack” after he visits her. So, we all got in our cars, went to her gravesite which he had beautifully decorated for the holidays. We all said a prayer, wished her a Merry Christmas and left her a plate of food. It was beautiful.
The love a couple shares is precious and an inspiration to all who know them. The deep sharing during the journey of two hearts knows no bounds and follows its own rules. It also serves as witness to what is possible even with, and maybe because of, life’s ups and downs.
This is a call to all the men in the world. Draw your honey a little closer and realize, she may not always be here for you - unless you want her to be. And if you do, let her know, always!