I read and heard a lot about the grieving process. I don’t like the word process. As if it is a formality which is planned with a definite set of rules to follow. And then once you get to step last, “You will be okay, really,” they promise.
“It’s normal and natural to have those feelings, really,” they say.
At my age, I of course have experienced losses. Not just death, but other kinds too. Teenage crushes, unfulfilled promises, jobs, friendships, empty nests, and just recently two precious rings.
I remember a couple of my friends had parents who passed away at a young age. My girlfriend Cathy lost her father when she was only 10 or 11, I think. I recognize now that I didn’t quite understand it then. When I look back, I realize how hard it must have been for her, her sister, for her mother, for the family.
Then in high school, another friend’s father died. The group of us, who hung out together, all went to the wake. It was the “right” thing to do, after all. But again I have to admit, I wasn’t capable of empathy.
My first time, personally, with a loss from death, was when my grandmother died. I was eighteen years old. I loved that woman. I didn’t go to her viewing or funeral. I suspect I was afraid of the emotion. Afraid, I guess, that I would lose control and act insane. That’s how I felt though, insanely sad.
Cancer has taught me empathy. Cancer is an evil task master whose victims must pull in close and cling to one another in order to survive.
I’ve lost many loved ones to cancer. Gosh, when I think about the number, it is astonishing.
The first time I cared for someone, who was dying from cancer, was my father.
And then 20 years later, I cared for my mother, when she was dying from cancer.
Recently, so very recently, my brother passed away. We used to be six, you know. I was one of six. Three sisters and two brothers. Now am I one of five?
I’m not sure I ever went through a “process” after any of my losses. If I did, I wasn’t aware that is what I was doing.
Obviously, though, I was able to climb up on Life’s back and ride again.
Not this time, though. It’s so hard this time. This time the loss was the greatest, by that I mean the worst. Cancer, you did it again. But this time you were too cruel, even for you. You took my son.
I used to have three children, when anyone would ask how many, I said three. Now do I say two?
My other children, my grandkids, they massage my ache just by their being.
Ross, you know, he is there. Always. Always.
Oh, I smile. I joke. I laugh. I take pictures of birds. Geez, I even bowl. And those times, when I am smiling and laughing and joking, bowling and birding, that’s real, for the briefest of moment, it’s real.
The other times, though, wow, they are rough. Those are the times when I scream and cry. Those hours when the pain is unbearable. That’s when I lose control and act insane.
For that’s how I feel, insanely sad.