The morning after my Gran died, I woke to a new and unfamiliar life. The scenery was the very same as the day before, and I sat drinking the usual coffee at my very same kitchen table, but there was a strangeness stark and sorrowful about it all. I looked intently at the yard outside, the neighbors’ houses beyond it, the cabinets in the kitchen, the front entry. It was as if for all the days and hours I’d bustled around there, I’d never seen them in that way before. Everything stood quiet and lifeless, and it was in that moment that I felt her absence so deeply. I was cognizant that with her passing so passed a season of my life, and I felt a longing for old days and a hollowness that I thought might be with me forever. It was my first great loss, and though I’d always understood the clinical meaning of the word, I didn’t know the power of it until that morning at my kitchen table.
It was the same when my father-in-law, my dad, became ill and passed away. And it was even the same when I learned my brother was moving away and again when he moved. Everything else about my life remained exactly the same, yet the pervasive sense that everything had irreversibly changed was in the air around me. A new season had begun. It’s in the hours and days following such events that I’m most keenly aware that our lives are evanescent, and I look upon the people I love with a sense of sadness that comes from knowing with certainty that someday I’ll be separated from them too. I fiercely want to draw them close to me, and I want to look at them, touch them, and love them as hard as I can at every precious opportunity. I vow that I’ll do just that.
Inevitably, life moves forward and becomes familiar again. Feelings wane as routine returns, and eventually the moments of loss become the old days. My promises to live a more meaningful life are buried under plans and obligations, hurts and pettiness, and a pace so fast it’s enough to keep up let alone think about where I’m going in such a hurry or why I even set out in the first place.
“I don’t have time….” That’s what I say.
“I should see my mom more, but I don’t have time.”
“We should spend a day on the boat.”
“We should go down and see Grandma.”
“We should do more family stuff.”
We say we don’t know how we’ll find the time or, even sillier, we should make time. Well, you know, we can’t make time. Time is finite, and all we have is what we’re given. Cruelly, we don’t even know how much that is. It’s funny to think that for all the times I’ve said, “I don’t have enough time,” I’ve failed to comprehend the magnitude of my own words. Surely I don’t have enough time, and I should spend it more wisely than I do. If only all the days of my life had that same hint of unfamiliarity and I could carry with me the profound meaning in them that only heartsickness summons.
This past week, friends and loved ones have experienced loss or gotten word to prepare for it, and through their grief I’ve been reminded of the promise I’ve made at those times in my life. I know that it’ll elude me again in the weeks to come, but as often happens in my sympathy for others, I’ve been given the gift of remembering it, if only for a little while. I’m grateful for it.