If They Could See Me Now
Do you ever step back and think, “Boy, if they could see me now”? Or maybe you think your parent or spouse is looking down from heaven and smiling at the person you’ve become.
It’s been years, but we want to connect. We want to share. We want the loved one who died to be a part of our lives today – and be proud of the things we’ve done. Or be involved in what is happening – a birth, a career milestone, or visit us at our new home.
If we feel entirely disconnected from our loved one, the thought may bring terrible loneliness and grief. They are not here. They cannot see what we’ve done. They aren’t part of this event.
What do we do with this latest twist to our grief?
I wanted my father to walk me down the aisle, but he’d died three years earlier. And yet on my wedding day, I did not fixate on his absence.
I focused on the enormous blessing of even being able to walk down the aisle for the first time at age 42. I took comfort that my heavenly father was with us, and Dad was with Him.
Later, I did grieve. I got my photographs back, and one triggered the thought, “This is the way I’d look at Dad.” I wrote a letter to my father, telling him how much I’d looked forward to him giving me away and about how much I hated that we never shared that event.
I think that helped me connect with him. And it helped me get the emotion out.
Walking In Your Footsteps
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know I returned last week from Europe, where I traveled with friends to Rome, Italy, Prague, Czech Republic, and Vienna, Austria. (Use the social media icons on this website to friend or follow me to watch the videos and photos I posted.) Before the trip, a song came to mind my mother played when I was a girl. I never asked her, but I think the song meant something to her. She’d sing along. It’s called Far Away Places.
I got out the old record and played the song.
“Faraway places with strange sounding names. Faraway over the seas.”
Joan Whitney sings of a longing to visit faraway places – she mentions cities in Asia – that she isn’t satisfied reading about. She wants to see them for herself.
By the time I’d come along, the most exotic place Mom had lived was in Japan, where Dad had been stationed at a U.S. Air Force base, and she was almost finished traveling. In fact, she was a hermit. She had lived in California, Michigan, New York and Georgia. Just before meeting my dad, she planned to move to Cuba. Castro killed that idea. In the mid-1990s, my parents won an expense-paid cruise and visited Jamaica and surrounding islands. That was their last trip.
My folks saw me travel much farther than many Mississippi girls go. To Washington D.C., Hawaii, New York, Dallas, Chicago, and finally to Israel.
On each trip, Mom had me call her to let her know I was okay. It was years after her death before I shook that urge when I traveled.
Grieving in Place – Any Place, Any Time
I’ve been to many other places – inside the country – but Europe was special. Rome was cool as an old city with centuries of history, and I thought of my parents when I was there, but Vienna is where my father’s father was born. It’s where I thought Lepeska originated, though sometimes people mentioned it sounded eastern European.
I understood why when I arrived in Czech ahead of Austria. I ran into so many letter combinations that my family name shares, and our map of Prague had at least a dozen streets ending in “ska.” I found out it is the feminine version of “ski,” and was originally a way of indicating nobility, but was later adopted by craftsman as well.
On the train to Vienna, I read about the formation of the Czech Republic. The rise and fall and fusing many times over of kingdoms in that area of Europe. In Vienna, I did not see any names like mine, except in the records of a Catholic church.
Using a 100-year-old baptismal record and the help of a German-speaking friend, I’d traced my grandfather to the church. An exceptionally helpful secretary translated information that was in the record but had not been on the baptismal certificate. She revealed that my paternal great grandfather’s family had been from Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic.
It all made sense. My family name was Czech. Two days later, I visited another church in Vienna where my great grandfather, who I learned worked with wood carving machinery, and my grandmother, a Vienna native, had been married. At this church, I lighted a single candle.
At the church where my grandfather was baptized, I had prayed. I had cried big globs of tears. I had lighted three candles, one for the grandfather who’d died before I was born, one for his oldest son, my Uncle Karl (who died three years ago), and one for Dad.
Experiencing an Unbreakable Bond
Daddy has been dead for 13 years, and Mom for 10, and my grief is altogether different – less intense – than it was, but even after all that time, it’s important to grieve, not just what happened but what did not happen. What they were not here for, and what I did not get to share with them. That grief is interlocked with a desire to connect.
At both churches, I wished my father was by my side – or at least a phone call away. He would have been delighted. I kind of kicked myself for never having an interest and finding out these things while he was alive. At the same time, I imagined my father standing there beside me. From the street, we looked up at the church together with identical open-mouthed smiles.
A couple hours before he died, Dad told me he was proud of me. Now, he was proud of me again for bringing him to this spot.
He wasn’t there you say? Oh, he was. Right there in my heart.
Have you written a letter to your loved one or visited their grave to tell them what you’d like them to know? We don’t know if they hear us, but we know a sense of connection brings comfort.
Copyright © 2019 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. http://www.tonilepeska.com