I found a scrap of paper with a short phrase. They were usually scraps due to instant inspiration written by my burly Dad the sensitive poet. He was positive, but he also called himself an extreme realist. However, he sang, whistled, and joked more than anyone else. When the doctor said the word leukemia we all heard it, but we didn’t hear it. “No, we are just here because there was a car wreck, that is all…what are you saying?” A longhorn steer could have rammed my insides, and it would have felt the same. Laughing instead of crying was his philosophy. So that is what he did along with those wonderful deep philosophical discussions we had about God and life during chemotherapy, and around the kitchen table. And some not so deep like the love for cheeseburgers, strawberry shakes, and cartoons. As a kid, I would laugh at his impromptu poetry….quite dramatic and funny. We watched cartoons sometimes, Courage the Cowardly Dog. My friend; my Dad. Silliness equaled happiness then.
Grief is a strange entity. It seems like it is gone, and all of a sudden, wham, a trigger point clicks the pain into every pore, and then it sits silently waiting for next time. I am talking about this because someone reached out to me in their grief. Does anyone ever say the right things? Do words really help? Following are the things I wish I had said, but didn’t. I don’t think most of us expect sorrow to tear everything up, to twist the heart into knots, and to walk away laughing at the contorted pieces. It feels like the pain is never going anywhere, because it just hurts so bad for so long. I found that sorrow has a wonderful enemy though…time. Time will stretch sorrow out until it is a thin vapor no longer powerful enough to be a prison wall. I think this incredible process happens because that is the way we are designed. We can only hold sadness at its saturation point for so long. It begins to dissipate, and sometimes so very excruciatingly slowly that it will seem like nothing will ever change. But it already is as you go about life everyday. Does the pain ever go completely away? Sometimes it does. But, it will not go away completely for my friend who lost her teenage son, promise of tomorrow, in an accident. But the pain today is not the same as the pain at the beginning of the tragedy. More good memories get mixed up with less tears. Each person has to find their own way through such a private and difficult process. I have my badges of honor where heart scars are concerned, and I found that my heart finally wanted to hug life again, and I hope the same for you.
My Dad would say to me don’t give up, because you never know what is around the corner. And then with a mischievous look he would say maybe trouble would find me, and maybe not. After writing his phrase on that scrap of paper, a few months later there she was, my Mom, dressed in red standing by the church door. The photo was iconic with the wind blowing her hair as she smiled. Another hope, another dream, less tears for him, because she made his life wonderful. He was laying in a hospital room the last day that he saw her. He would never see her again after that day, and we just didn’t know. He watched her walk across the room and said, “She is so beautiful.” Then they had a little chat about how she was jealous of him. They both laughed. He once wrote a poem for her, “After the bloom of the rose is gone, my love for you will still be strong.” He saw yesterday, and the present all together in that lovely face.
Some of us learn early that life goes back and forth in-between sad, hopeful, pain that seems to have no purpose, and realizing pure happiness can fall out of nowhere making a song out of the fact that you survived it all. I realized that I could survive… just by waiting on time. It was difficult for me to feel that one day pain would not rule my life. But life has a way of pushing a ripped heart around the corner where trouble isn’t always waiting. Hope just might be there with a dream to accomplish, and all the while your heart can still love the one that is gone, but with less tears. So this Saturday morning I was watching cartoons with my kid, because silliness equals happiness. Who knew SpongeBob SquarePants was so powerful? He made us laugh.
And what was it that my Dad wrote on that scrap right before he met my Mom?
“To think of the past is to weep bitter tears. To think of tomorrow is to fill the heart with joy.” (J.W.O.)“Never, Never, Never give up.” Winston Churchill
Now how did I get Winston Churchill, and Sponge Bob SquarePants in the same post ….well, I have no idea! :) ….Terri O.A.