Labor Day Weekend, summer's last hurrah. This is a time of backyard barbeque's, one more dip in the pool, or any number of celebrations and get togethers. A time when you just enjoy being with family or friends or maybe even both.
Yesterday, we celebrated the beginning of a new life for my niece and her husband. We watched them profess their love in a beautiful church ceremony, and looked on wistfully as they stepped onto the dance floor for their first dance as husband and wife. We celebrated one of the many joys in life, especially for the parents, as they watch the children they gave life to, now begin a life of their own. Emotions range from happiness, to sadness and everywhere in between.
I enjoy these celebrations of happiness: weddings, baptisms, first birthdays, and anniversaries, etc., all representing milestones in someones life. With these wonderful occasions, comes a feeling that is bittersweet. For so many of us who have lost a loved one, these occasions represent dreams unfulfilled. We feel cheated out of some important part of our lives, as though the hand of fate has dealt us a raw deal. We may feel anger, resentment, or resignation, we may have learned to hide our emotions or find ourselves unable to control them.
I have learned to keep my emotions somewhat in check, I don't always succeed, but have come to know what triggers a response. For me, watching the father-daughter dance is one of the more difficult moments, I make a hasty retreat to where I can be alone. I take some deep breathes and try not to think of what is happening in the reception hall. I have become somewhat successful at stepping out without the notice of others present.
For some of you, it may be that one of your parents has died, others a brother or sister, some a beloved grandparent, aunt or uncle, and still others a child. All these individuals have left a void in your life, and special celebrations can leave you longing for their presence. Especially when they would have had a significant role in the celebration.
Recently a friend shared with me that she did not realize she was actually grieving. She married a few months ago and walked herself down the aisle. Her father is still alive, but suffers from Alzheimer's and was unable to walk his daughter down the aisle. At first she considered herself an independent person, and the act of walking herself down the aisle just reinforced this fact. But in retrospect, it was a self-defense mechanism, allowing her to forestall her grief. Even though her father is still very much alive, she has had to say good-bye to her dad.
Shortly after my father's death, hearing the song by Bob Carlisle, 'Butterfly Kisses' was a killer, and of course it was a very popular song at weddings a few years ago, and if Luther Vandross' 'Dance with My Father' came on radio, I would be reduced to tears. We all have different events, songs, places and mementos that remind us of our loved ones, that trigger a response from us. If you had a strained relationship with the person that died, it can also cause guilt to bubble up.
As the years go by we learn to accept that our loved one will not be present, that life can and does go on, and that we will and do survive. We remember them, we think of them often and sometimes, depending on their relationship with the person celebrating, they are also remembered in a special way. A few years ago at one of my niece's weddings, she made a point of having pictures of all her deceased relatives incorporated into a slide show of her and her husband's lives. My daughter's photo was among them and it let me know she meant something to not only my husband and I, but to my niece and her family. It was a beautiful tribute to all those special people in her life that could no longer be present.
Take heart, that the pain you now feel will begin to ebb, you will be able to enjoy life's celebrations. You will remember fondly all those members of your family that have died and you will find ways of thinking of them during these times. Yes they are missed, they are remembered and their life is cherished and celebrated. They are present in the faces around you, in the laughter and in the tears, the scents and the music, their every essence is a part of who you are. They are always with us, always in our hearts, they are always a heart beat away.
One of my favorite bible readings, one that was read at our wedding and yesterday at my niece's, is from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8*. It is also a very popular sentiment on many wedding cards and used quite often in home decor in the form of framed artwork or blankets and throws. I am sure you will recognize these words, and may have heard them several times.
Love is patient, love is kind;
love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude,
it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice in wrong-doing, but rejoices in the truth,
it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
Blessings! and until we meet again.
*The passage was taken from
The Catholic Faith & Family Bible, NRSV,
Harper Catholic Bibles, Copyright 1989, 1993.