That day I looked like I lost my best friend – because I had. It hadn’t rained for quite a while so the streets were very oily when my friend and her husband were killed instantly in a collision during a fall Sunday afternoon downpour. This time of year always makes me remember, even though it was several years back.
A neighbor of Carolyn’s called me and found – as she later confided – there was no easy way to break such heart-rending news. I took care of business, contacting friends and co-workers and rushing to the house, only to wonder when my friend and her husband would come home.
The sobbing was only the beginning of a two-week trek of trying to support the family in any way possible. The double funeral was almost more than I could bear. Cleaning out her business cards, message shelf, and part-time office at my school took over a week of excruciatingly interspersed minutes.
I was reminded of the emotional urgency for me and other parents to keep a will and other end-of-life papers updated. I made an indelible note to myself to tell my sons and others close to me of my love for them and other things in my heart, as banking on tomorrow is not a guarantee.
Amidst the pain of too much feeling, I noticed that Thanksgiving was coming – and realized our need to live in daily thanks for life’s small favors, and even for life.
I wrote this letter to her daughters, recalling the types of things I could imagine her wanting them to know. As I wrote I felt my own motherhood and my sisterhood, and my woe:
There are a few things you need to know which you may not see as this week is so full of words from all directions.
One was that your mother was very happy when we were together at a church supper the night before she died. The other was that she always sparkled when she spoke of you girls. You brought her joy and made her proud.
Your mom was my friend. She fed my heart with the psychiatry of friendship. As I listen to the silence created by her absence, I can almost hear her pleasant, honest approach to life’s uncertainties. I can imagine her knowing you face a future she cannot protect, provide for, or polish; but knowing you will do well.
You will notice that life is not always shiny. But you also know the cards are in your hands to, moment by moment, choose who you are, and yet shall be. She would want you to be good to yourself, giving yourself permission to cry, be angry, yet choose to heal as you traverse the grotto of grief.
May your tears – and our love, be a streamlet from which you sail out into the sea of life in a vessel of reality which is a sturdy craft yet surely will be battered at times. Find joy in the splashes and the play of seabirds.
May your future be blessed – as Carolyn was in being your mother. You will forever carry with you her memories, and her love. May you always have love from and for others, and especially yourselves.
Some of life’s learning is not easy to celebrate. Yet a life well lived is worthy of celebration. May you light the candle of growth each time you walk through the darkness of grief – and may we all give thanks for life and love, each and every day.
When I read this letter to the daughters during the funeral, I knew it would help a bit to start their active stage of grieving. Yet I knew it was a tough journey they must make in order to reach the stage of healing and cherished memories.
Part of my aging process involves losing some friends and loved ones we hold dear. Here’s hoping this is a reminder to move on with our griefs so we can reach the stage where we smile in fond memories of the ones who’ve passed on.
May your transition from summer into fall be all you could wish for, and don’t forget to use each day for making memories. Connect with grandkids if you have some, and if you don’t find some young people to enjoy. Continue to enjoy senior life with wellness and gratefulness for life’s pleasant everyday moments.
Copyright by Hildra Tague. Contact author for permission for republication in print or online.