Memories & Memorials, Lingering Sadness and Exhaustion

 

Brutal best describes the last six months.   The traditional stress of three children in three school as well as a lot of extra travel. I find myself at the end of the new year not nearly where I wanted to be.  I’ve lagged behind in my writing as well as other household tasks.  I am struggling to find the joy of this holiday season. I love Christmas and usually decorate with more than one tree and several other decorations. This year I simply put up a tree, a smaller one than usual.  It just felt right this year.

This fall has been touched with a lot of sadness.  My maternal uncle died in August after being ill for some weeks. Now, my uncle and I were not as close as some.  Mostly because of time and distance.  I lived geographically far from both sets of families, so I had limited contact with most of my mom’s family and my dad’s family.  I do have many wonderful memories of my grandparents as well as many aunts and uncles.

Back to my uncle … he was the third of my mom’s siblings to pass.  She is one of six.  As I write this blog post, memories of him float around in my mind.  I can hear his particular North Carolina accent telling stories about his work, his family and life in general.  He left behind a wife and two daughters.  He also left behind a brother and two sisters.  I don’t know the grief of losing a parent, but I do know the grief of losing a sibling.  I’ve watched my mom grieve for three siblings now.  Two were from an extended illness and one from a sudden death. Grief changes you in many ways and many levels.   There has been a lingering tiredness that I haven’t seen in my mom and myself for a while.  Grief is exhausting.  It takes time for a body and mind and soul to process that grief.  Grief upon grief takes its toll on you.

In October I traveled to New York with three other friends and we celebrated the birthday of one friend who died of breast cancer five years ago.  We had a wonderful time, but we also remark about her absence from our lives. She was so young, only 41.  That is half the life of one of my parents.  We honor her memory by wearing purple (her favorite color) and talking about her life and legacy. This was a big trip that we talked about taking with her, but it never happened until now.  I can hear her beautiful singing voice as I write this as well.

Sadly, another death occurred last month. Yet another friend who I had not seen in a long time.  We attended church together and a small group and the occasional Bible study many years ago.  As is the case with people, God moves you in different circles.  I had not seen in her a long time.  A year or so ago I heard that she was diagnosed with cancer.  I attended her memorial service a month ago, and it touched me deeply.  She too fought a brave battle with cancer.  It was so encouraging to hear stories of her faith and see the tender pictures of a life she built with her husband and two lovely daughters.  Hearing about how her faith sustained her and how her she felt as peace at the outcome of her medical diagnosis gave the memorial service that sense of calm that God was in the middle of her journey and mine.  It was unnerving to experience (although not direct) another life cut so short by that devastating illness. She was younger than I am.  This is the fourth person in my circle of friends I worshiped with to die at a age younger than me.  They all left behind young children.  That is very hard for any momma. One of those moms said she was not afraid of dying (for she knew her assurance of Heaven) but she was afraid of leaving her children.  We mommas so worry about our children, as well as our spouses and parents. It isn’t nature for a child to die before a parent, even if that child was well into adulthood with children of their own.

As I type this, I am struggling with what to do with this lingering sadness and end of year exhaustion. Sadness because there has been so much grief from death and suffering.  Exhaustion from life’s usual experiences and the end of semester stress.  I have personal experience what the holiday season holds for friends and family who lost a loved one recently.  Countless ads tell everyone should be happy and with family. The reality is many people are hurting and lonely, more so at the holidays.  Families are alienated from one another, or they are separated by loss or distance.  That first Christmas after my brother died was so heartbreaking.  A huge part of our lives was missing.  It still lingers 28 years later.  Joy was restored to the Christmas celebration with the introduction of two spouses and four grandchildren.  I always wonder though about the missing spouse and children that my brother might have had.  For know, I am still trying to process the exhaustion and assess how to cope with it.

A very long time ago I heard someone say, Be Gentle With Yourself and Others.   I plan to practice this during this holiday season. My friends, if you are in this place also, I hope you try it.

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