“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” ~ Mitch Albom
This quote sums up one great thing I learned about death. I cannot hear my parents anymore, nor my Uncle Karl, whom I lost one year ago tomorrow, but they speak into my life. I must listen with my heart.
I’ve got a lifetime of memories. A lifetime of lessons they put into me. I “hear” these. And the things they wrote down – oh goodness, a treasure. I can’t possibly remember everything. It helps when I see what they thought and felt on paper.
I will probably write about that more another time. I just wanted to pop in, give you a word, and let you know I accidentally published my last blog early. I hope I didn’t wake anyone last night!
Here’s the link to that post: http://wp.me/p7Agwy-b8
Have a great rest of the week. Thanks for following my blog. I’ll be back next week.
He called me “doll.” He took me to see the Empire State Building when I was 16. He introduced me to art at the Peabody Museum at Yale. Years later, lying in a hospital bed at a rehab hospital, he told me I was like a daughter to him. But I was his niece. He was my last surviving uncle.
I wailed when I learned he’d died. It wasn’t just that he was dead. It was that I’d missed seeing him once more. Missed helping him into eternity. Missed saying goodbye.
The first anniversary of his death is Friday the 7th. He lived to be 85. Society doesn’t make much of the loss of uncles and aunts. They don’t typically live in the same home with us. They aren’t in that tight family circle. Not a spouse. Not a child. Not a parent.
But like a parent. That gets overlooked sometimes. After we lose our mothers and fathers, they stand in the gap. They know all the good stories about our parents. They remember our early childhoods, too. They’re like mini-parents, especially after we lose mom and dad.
My mother lived a reclusive life, beginning about the time I turned 8. She left the house two or three times a year. Dad did the shopping. But when I got older, Mom ventured out every spring for our sale.
It’s the one thing we did together. After she got sick and then after she died, I found it difficult to go to the annual rummage sale. I missed a few times. Grief works like that. It twists pleasure into pain.
Suzi kept calling me. Kept befriending me. I’d stopped dating her brother, and I’d met her only once. She lived 2,100 miles away in California. Yet she remained my supportive friend.
I thought about this last week because Suzi died. She died on March 22. A few hours after I learned the news, I realized she died 10 years to the day that I met her.
Wow, what does that mean? Probably nothing, but it took me back a decade, to what was happening in my life and to what Suzi then meant to the brokenness I was experiencing.
I thought: Maybe Suzi was one of those people God sends to stand in the gap. These friends bridge the span between our need and our supply. They bridge the gap illness and death creates between us and the parental guidance we need.
I want to thank all of my readers today and invite you to follow a series of posts that begin tomorrow, March 28. The posts will reveal how friends and other kin help us navigate our lives as the incredible burden of grief presses on our hearts. They “stand in the gap” left by the deaths of our parents.
In my first post, I’ll write about Suzi. She came into my life amid one of the worst periods of my life. I had lost my dad and was caring for my mother. Suzi had just lost her mother. Yet in her own grief, she met me in mine.
I’m blessed with a lot of space, but many others struggle with finding a space for the things they inherit. Useful things aren’t the challenge. Grandmother’s casserole dish? To the kitchen it goes.
But what about the things you aren’t going to use? Things that perhaps aren’t at the top of the sentimental list, but still is wrapped in a memory? Something too big to put into a box?
I’m not going to be exhaustive right now, but I do want to suggest one solution. Photography.
Do you dream about your parents? Do your loved ones seem alive again in your sleep? I love dreaming about my parents, but often dreams are uncomfortably instructive rather than happy.
Such was the case in 2015. That spring, I was focused on devising a way to articulate for my first book what the cleaning out of my parents’ home meant to my grief journey.
I didn’t like my name. School teachers and classmates misspelled and mispronounced it. Others expected me to be a boy, to be Tony. Not Toni. But I’ve long since gotten over that, and even love my name now. I’ve never met nor discovered through Google another Toni Lepeska. It’s unique.
Maybe you’ve struggled with your name. Maybe it means you’ve struggled with your identity. If so, I’m right with you.
Every first full week in March is Celebrate Your Name Week. It offers us an opportunity to reflect on who gave us our names and on the joy with which we entered the world. Maybe we can recapture that joy. Maybe we can celebrate ourselves in the way we were celebrated at birth.