A dear friend of mine lost her mother a few months ago. The other day she asked me if she would ever stop missing her. I told her “no, but it gets easier.” For those of you have lost those most close to your heart, you know exactly when I mean. I told my friend that it has been nearly 15 years since my dad died. When he died, he only had one grandchild – my nephew who turned sixteen in March. He missed many graduations, weddings, and the birth of eighteen more grandchildren (we are seven kids), and a whole lot of other wonderful memories.
When he died, I was nineteen, newly married and pregnant with my first child, and I needed him in my life. I didn’t have a good relationship with my mother and I was going through so many events in my life that warranted a father in my life. After his death, I missed him terribly and I felt like I had buried a piece of my soul with him and the years that followed were the most difficult of my life.
The problem was that I grew up in a culture that taught me that a woman needed a man to take care of her and protect her and that she was incapable of doing it for herself. At the time of his death, my brothers were ages 16, 15 and 3 (and they needed me) and the validation I needed at the time wasn’t coming from my mother. In the end, I learned that I didn’t need a man in my life to feel protected, safe, or to take care of me. I needed to learn that I was capable of doing that all on my own and I did, but his death and the years that followed have forever changed me.
I am also certain that if he had not died I may have never learned the lesson his death taught me. Death and loss are difficult but they force us to change the direction of our lives and death is imminent so that means change is as well. Every so often, I think of my dad but instead of mourning and grieving, I treasure his memories and I treasure the person that he made me become. When I had no one to lean on, I leaned on his memories and that alone gave me the validation that I was seeking.
It was James Barrie (the Scottish dramatist & novelist – he wrote “Peter Pan”) that said that “life is a long lesson humility,” and I know with absolute certainty that it is just that. We mourn death and we treasure life, and the rest, what is between, is humility. It isn’t about our chaotic jobs and lives, the debts we will attain and perhaps die with, or even the things that cause us pain; it is the lesson learned and the road travelled.