Monday, February 21, 2011

In Remembrance: Love and Grief

A very good friend of mine died this weekend. A great man, husband, father, grandfather, and friend. I was not there, and I will not be able to go to the funeral to say goodbye, or to give the family my support. For me, there is no heavier loss than that. This is grief.

You know, I've noticed that this country does not allow for mourning anymore. To cry, to grieve, to mourn are seen as indecent behavior in our society. In fact, we almost don't even know what it is anymore to grieve, or how important it is. I noticed it when my grandparents died. When I mentioned it, people were embarrassed and hastened to change subjects away from people I loved and lost. Or worse, they would act as though death was an instantaneous act of letting go: "I'm sorry for your loss. Let them go, now, and move on."

The fact they are referred to as "lost" was always confusing to me: they aren't lost; I know exactly where they are, and the problem is that it's not here. Grieving is part of loving. It's not indecent and shouldn't be treated as such. The more you capacity you have to love, the more grief it produces in letting go. Someone I loved is referred to in past tense, and it rips my heart in pieces. You don't stop loving, but it's part of the process, and to shortchange it is disrespectful to those who now exist in memory.

My friend Bill was one of the most amazing people I ever had the honor to meet. I actually knew him better than I knew his sons that are my age. We talked, joked, laughed, attended the same church, participated in all sorts of town events, and I think of his family as an extension of my own. He was one of the few that embodied what it means to follow my religion, and only in knowing him better did I learn what it meant for me. I grieve for the inevitable heartache left behind in his absence; we are very selfish about death, you know. If I could have changed places with him, I would in a heartbeat. Then I wouldn't hurt this much. But it doesn't work like that, and he is not hurting anymore. What a relief that must be to experience. I know there is really nothing one can say or do to make the process easier, but at least to his family: know that you are not alone and many, many hearts/minds/prayers are with you today and forever.

"Goodnight, Mr. Bueermann--wherever you are."