Personal Privilege

Three weeks ago I wrote this post about how NOT to talk about God, with a promise to post part 2 the next week.  But then something happened.  More than something, my mother died on September 2nd after a very brief illness. We had her service last Friday, which was beautiful.

Now we grieve.

When my dad died five years ago, I don’t think I really actively grieved.  I certainly missed him, and I still do.  However, when he died, my siblings and I all thought, what about mom?  Who’s got mom?  Thanksgiving? Christmas?  There was something to do, someone else to be concerned for, to worry about, to take care of.

There is a finality in this death. We are left with space, at times too much, to think, to reflect, and to acknowledge the loss.

I struggled with whether or not to write about this, as I don’t want anyone to second guess anything they may have done or said over the last few weeks. Please know my family and I are grateful for every call, card, note, text, email, kind word, hug, etc that we have received.

But grief is a strange beast.  When you are grieving, the following two thoughts can be going through your head at the exact same moment:

  1.  Why haven’t you asked me about my mom, you cold-hearted bastard?
  2. Can’t you see I don’t want to talk about my mom, you cold-hearted bastard?

It’s weird.  You want to be wrapped in the grief and completely shed the weight of it at the same time. Given that, some people get confused about what, if anything to say.

Say something.  Saying something stupid is better than saying nothing at all. There is nothing you can say to fix it, so don’t try.  After my dad died, one guy approached me and said, “Sorry about your dad.” Perfect. One very sweet man at his funeral, remarked about my dad’s service in the Navy. He wasn’t in the Navy; he was in the Army.  But who cares?  The remark was more about his life of service than it was about the particular branch.  Still perfect.

Here’s another thing.  Grief will kick you in the ass when you least expect it. Last Sunday I was able to publicly thank my entire congregation for their prayers and notes.  No problem.  Monday I drove to mom’s mountain house to clean out the fridge. When I asked a waitress at a diner where the local dump was, I nearly burst into tears. My sister lives in the same town as my mom did.  Yesterday she pulled up to the local farmer’s market, the one my mom went to every Wednesday.  My sister wondered how many of those vendors saw my mom every week, how many knew they would never see her again, how many knew her name. It’s the strangest things.

You work through it.  I’m comforted believing that she is with my dad again.  I know not everyone who reads this blog is particularly religious, so that thought may seem silly to them. That’s fine, but as long as we humans have walked this planet we have created some ritual around death,  some sacredness to give the life, the death, and the memory some deeper meaning.  This is mine.

So life continues. Comforted by family and friends, we move forward, because that’s what we do. Bills need to be paid, and kids need to get to school.

Next week, I will come back to how TO talk about God, a better way than selling insurance. But today, I thank Mom and Dad for everything they did for me, my brother and sister, for family, for friends and for strangers.

They were lives well lived.

8 thoughts on “Personal Privilege

  1. Well written. You have summed grieving up very very well. Your parents left a mark on all of us that loved them..they were both strong and gentle, older but young at heart, wise and understanding. After spending time with the three of you I am sure you all have these same qualities that people will regard you in the same way the felt about your mother and your father. We have been so richly blessed. Love you!

  2. Patrick – I lost my Dad first- very suddenly- and my Mom years later after and illness. Both times it sucked…. the advance warning didn’t help. The grief still hits me at unsuspecting moments. My thoughts are with all of you. Sending a big hug.

  3. Thanks, Patrick. Beautifully said and honest, as always. Grief is such a funny animal, no? Surely, I believe it is a relationship that ebbs and flows. Bless you, and again, I am so sorry for your loss.

  4. Thank you Pat for your thoughts and concerns for those that don’t always know what the right thing is. That your mom and dad are back together is the real blessing. We look forward to seeing all the Georgia Days again, real soon!

  5. Grief is the price of love…..and God said upon seeing your mother’s loving face, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.

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