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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

i have had some significant losses in my life, as many of us do.  one of the most significant losses i experienced was when my best friend ingrid died.  we were both 12 years old.  she was hit by a car riding her bike to my house.  there is nothing that feels like that…when someone you love is here…with you, then gone…just gone.  completely disappears.  just writing about it here makes me feel like i was just punched in the gut…you can’t get enough air.  the shock, the panic, the searching.  some part of my brain kept looking for her…unable to get my mind around the fact that she was just gone.  period.  gone.

i read a short story a while ago written by an older man.  this man had been married to his wife for many years.  he loved her deeply.  they were, in so many ways, one.  then she died.  he writes of the grief…the indescribable pain.  he writes how one day, after her death, he found himself crawling around the living room floor, searching for strands of her hair that she might have left behind in the carpet…as if he found one of her hairs, he could have her back.  i’ll never forget that image.  this elderly man, desperately searching…crawling on the floor, trying to hold on to something that was gone…her physical presence.

i tell my kids that when someone dies, they are with us forever.  that what we shared with them, the love we shared, is real and always with us.  we are always connected to that and to them.  that they are in our hearts forever.  i think i started to tell my kids this because i wanted them to feel safe.  i can’t explain to them the bigger picture things i believe, so i simplified it to give them a sense of security.  but i think i have come to realize lately that this is really actually true.

i realized these last couple of years that i never really grieved over ingrid.  i feel i have done that..and in doing so have made room for the good memories.  i have been talking to people i went to high school about her…asking what they remember.  i have been emailing her mother and her brother.  it has been very healing for me, and i hope for them too.  there was always a space in my heart for her…it was just full of pain and hurt, so i didn’t look at it.  this past year i have looked at it and felt the pain,  and in doing so was able to let it go…and now that space is full of her…us…our connection.  memories of the times we shared…memories of what an amazing person she was, how she helped me so much.  she is with me always and i feel it now.  and that feels very good.

when we love someone, when we share something with someone that is real and meaningful, that creates something of it’s own…the energy of what you shared.  that energy will always be with us.  this is true in all cases of loss, whether the person died or they are alive but no longer part of your life.  feel the pain and it will create space to honor the “good” memories…the real and true things you shared.

i am not trying to negate the physical loss.  the person not being in your life anymore is real.  that is a real loss…the things you’ll never do with them again…the things you’ll never share with them again…the things you’ll never be able to tell them.  that is so very real, and so painful…but what is also real is what you shared…and that will be with you forever.

warren zevon wrote this song when he found out he was dying of lung cancer.  it’s the last song he ever recorded.  he was very ill at the time.  sing it for us warren you beautiful soul…

edit:here is a different video of warren zevon singing the same song.  this is from the documentary that was made while he recorded his last album, the wind.  he started writing and recording it after he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  in the video you can see a number of the musicians who came to play on his album and say goodbye to him (jackson browne and bruce springsteen are two of them).  his daughter ariel and his son jordan are also in it.  he completed the album before he died.  after he died, his last album got him five grammy nominations.  he won two…the only grammies he ever won.   i have the dvd if anyone wants to watch it.  i think it’s brilliant. 

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i lived in san diego briefly about 25 years ago.  while i was there, i started attending the local community college.  one of the classes i took was philosophy.  i loved philosophy…still do.  i love talking about ideas.  and what made that class even better was the professor…professor banks.   she was the kind of professor who really wanted to discuss…she didn’t seem too concerned with tests or grades.   she wanted us to examine our ideas and share them…she encouraged us to question everything.   i really loved her class.

i never finished that class, or any of the other ones i was taking back then.  i had not dealt with the traumas of my past and the pain started to really affect me.  i decided i should move back to chicago, where i knew more people…where i felt i had more support.  i remember being so disappointed in myself…so disappointed i couldn’t stay.   i talked to professor banks about it and said my goodbyes.  she asked me if i wanted to give her my address so she could send me the papers i had written.  she hadn’t graded them yet.  i remember being kind of surprised.  thinking back on it now, i think i was surprised that she valued them…she valued my ideas…she valued me.  i gladly gave her my address and moved back home.

a month or so later i got a package in the mail from her.  i had forgotten all about those papers and here they were.  she had read them all and written comments to me…even though i wasn’t going to finish her class.  another professor might have thought it didn’t matter anymore…why waste the time?  but she knew it mattered.  discussing my ideas with me mattered whether i was going to formally finish her class or not.  in the package she also included a copy of the book the prophet by kahlil gibran.  she bookmarked the page on self-knowledge and wrote this inside the front cover:

“For Mahra, a true “Lover of Wisdom”, Be ever faithful to yourself”

i remember how it felt to get that from her.  i felt seen.  i felt like she had seen in me what i could not see…my light.  she believed in me even though i did not believe in myself.   i never forgot that.

that book is probably the possession i treasure most.  i treasure it because she gave it to me…and i treasure it because of the truth it contains for me.  it spoke to me when i first read it all those years ago…and it speaks to me even louder now.  and whenever i read it, i think of professor banks and feel grateful that she saw me and felt it important enough to send it.

i thought of her today while i was cutting the grass.  i have no idea why.  i thought i would contact her and send her my blog address.  i got excited by this idea.  i would love to discuss ideas with her again. so i called the college to try to contact her.  they told me she died 6 years ago.   then i remembered the letter she sent me in 2001.  i had written her to thank her for the book…to tell her i have kept it all these years and how important it was to me.  i told her about my life and how i had healed so much.  she wrote me back a beautiful letter.  i have always cherished it.  you can click here to read the entire letter.  in it she said:

“Mahra, I certainly do remember you and have thought of you often over the years.  There was never any doubt in my mind that you would go on to successfully complete your formal education.  What was more important to me was that you understood that true education is about embracing yourself and the formal aspect helps to shape and enhance what life is teaching you.  Education is a life long  journey.  We go on integrating both the formal and the informal and delighting in the outcomes.  It’s never easy, and it hurts at times, as you and I well know, but it’s so worth it isn’t it.”

“I, too, couldn’t get enough of all there was to learn.  So, m’dear, it would appear that we are kindred spirits.  What a delight!  Pass it on!  First to Quincy and your husband and then to the next young man or woman you encounter in whom you recognize that hunger for wisdom and truth.  It did not begin with Gibran and will not end with you and I.  We are all linked in this journey and it all began a “zillion” years ago deep in the human heart that recognized that we are so much more than we seem to be at any given moment.  I know you understand this and it fills my heart with joy. The joy is based on the fact that the years go rushing by and class after class pass through my care and I look to you and students like you who “get it” to continue passing on the “light” that illuminates the dark recesses of indifference and a willingness to settle only for mediocrity that ends in hearts burdened with haunting dissatisfaction that infects everyone they encounter, especially the young.”

when the woman on the phone told me that she died, i started to feel regret.  why hadn’t i kept in contact with her?  what more could she have taught me?  i wanted to talk to her more…i wanted to feel that connection…i wanted to tell her thank you again…i wanted to let her know what she meant to me.  but as i read her letter today, i began to feel such peace.  i learned what i needed to from her.  i am lucky enough to have told her how i felt about her…she knows.  the connection with her is still there…and always will be.   and most importantly i am sharing my light with the world and others…just as she shared her light with me…and for that i’m so grateful.

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