Friday, January 02, 2009

My place in line

It was my first Christmas without parents. A friend reminded me that this will be my first New Year as an "orphan."

It is very difficult, more so than I ever anticipated.

Sadness, gratitude, joy and hope all mixed up in an emotional bundle I didn't see coming.

This Christmas forced a time of refocus, of realization, of recognition. I expect the New Year will be the same.

Both my dad and my mom are gone.

Hard to grasp.

Brenda's folks passed away over a decade ago. They were precious people, and very important to me and, of course, to her. She warned me of the surprising emotions that would wipe me out. No warning could really prepare me. You just have to be there, as so many of you know as well as or much better than I.

Today I realize, possibly for the first time, just how much my parents loved me, how much they sacrificed for me. This "after-the-fact" realization adds to the burden, as well as the gratitude.


I miss them. Not complicated.

At the same time, I realize in a brand new way just how much I love those who remain near my side.

Brenda and I will have been walking together for 40 years, if we make it until June 2009.

Where did the time go? Sounds so trite, but the feelings are anything but routine. She has put up with an awful lot! When we married, she had no idea! She couldn't have been a better partner than she has been and will be. I'm grateful for her. Somehow, again an unexpected result of their both having left us, I am more in touch than ever before about just how much I love her.

This death-induced magnifying glass has had the same affect on my heart as I think of our daughters, their husbands and our three grandchildren. My family means everything to me. We are so very blessed. My parents taught me that, tried to help me see it while they were here. It is almost as if their departure provided the last, best lesson about just how important my family is to me, and will be until it is my turn to move on.

We are on a journey through life.

Those closest to us who accompany us are the most important to us.

We need each other.

And, we need other people as well. Friends, neighbors, community members, community life and the support and joy it brings us. I felt and experienced the power of community in the passing of both of my parents. Working to sustain and to expand relationships with other people is a good way to spend one's days.

Today, January 2, 2009, my mom would have celebrated her 88th birthday.

But, she is gone.

And, I am at the head of the line now.

It feels okay to be "next."

What is most important is clearer today as the new year begins.

You know, you just see things differently from the front of the line.



Karen Shafer said...


What a moving post. Having gotten to know one of your daughters through her being a good friend of one of mine (who had her birthday yesterday!), and knowing two of your grandkids, I know what a precious family you have. Brenda must be wonderful, too!

What struck me most about your post is the unexpected nature of the difficulty of grieving. As an only child, but mostly as a human being who has lost both her parents, I remember what a shock it was for me to experience the mourning when my parents died as having 'a life of its own.' That was how I came to think about it. It came in waves, and you never knew when one was going to knock you down. Learning to 'go with it' was so tremendously difficult. It reminded me a little of childbirth -- the power of the experience was something so elemental. There was no controlling it. The best hope was to cooperate with it as best I could.

I often felt during the freshness of grief that I was in an entirely different landscape than that of every day life. There are blessings there, but their nature is often elusive and hard to grasp.

I know what you mean about realizing later how much your parents loved you. As my life as a parent and grandparent continues to unfold, I continually marvel at my parents' sacrifices as well as at how often I didn't grasp their significance at the time.

'We are on a journey through life.

Those closest to us who accompany us are the most important to us.

We need each other.'

I couldn't agree more. Thanks for sharing your experience in such an honest way.

Karen Shafer

Lynn Leaming said...

I always appreciate your authenticity. I am so thankful that you know our God of all comfort. May He continue to make His presence known to you. I rejoice that you were blessed with parents that give you good memories. How much harder it would be if you had not been the recipient of such great love. But because your parents loved you with God's love at it's best, it now flows from you on to your wife, daughters, grandkids and all of the rest of us who are blessed to walk this journey with you.