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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Life-long learning.

You learn so much sometimes when you are not even trying.  Over the years I have had my share of life experiences some good, some I'd rather forget, but in every event there has been a lesson.  We don't realize it at the time, but years later it dawns on us.

When my daughter died I learned that people really do care, even if they say the wrong things or act totally opposite of what you expected.  I have come to realize that we are all humans and with this fact comes some character flaws.  We all make mistakes (yes, we do), we all find ourselves getting into trouble at some point, and we often speak without giving much thought to the impact our words may have. 

Yet it is the 'character flaws' that we miss the most sometimes.  Those little quirky things that they said, the totally out in left field comment, and the 'oops' I made a mistake, and I think I'm in trouble.  I could do with out the trouble part, but the rest, how I long to just shake my head one more time, say 'what where you thinking,' or just smile at something they said.  I remember times when Rachel would makes us laugh so hard, we'd be crying.  Or when she would have us trying to figure out which end was up.  When trouble hit, I remember how she new that she could count on us to help her as best we could.  

All these things we realize were learning moments, opportunities for us to challenge ourselves to look beyond the surface, to see who they truly are.  To see past the 'flaws' to the person that has such a significant impact in our lives.  I watch at times how others interact with their loved ones, how a learning moment is happening right before their eyes, and I wonder will they understand it as such.  How many of these moments have I squandered away, how many have I missed?  The answer for me, is way too many! 

Yet I wonder, would I have truly changed anything?  Have I totally ignored all the lessons laid before me?  I want to say no, I have learned, I am still learning, and yes, I am willing to continue learning.  I am sure that many of life's lessons I have filed away, wanting to ignore them, act as if they never happened, but I know eventually they will resurface.  

Years ago, our family had a home fire and we were left 'homeless' for four months.  We were not out on the street, we were able to stay with family, but I came to fully understand how vulnerable we truly are.  How in the blink of an eye so much can change.  That lesson made me look hard at those who may be suffering from homelessness, from alienation, who, even with a roof over there head, still feel like they don't belong.  I now look at someone who is homeless, ostracized, or lonely and feel a sense of empathy, and realize that most of the times it is due to circumstances totally out of their control. 

The same is true for those of us dealing and coping with the death of a loved one. We now fully understand the pain of loss, the pain grief brings with it, the emptiness and the sense helplessness. Recently we have had several young people and children die, and each time I hear this, my heart aches, truly aches.  I feel for those parents immediately.  Just this past week a young soldier was killed in action from a neighboring state.  I live within minutes of the border, and drive through the state quite often.  The flags are all being flown at half-mast until the young man is laid to rest.  Each time I see those flags, I think of his mother, all the unanswered questions, all the uncertainty, and all the what ifs, that are now are running through her head.  I think of his father, and know how he will struggle to console his wife, and try to come to grips with this death himself.  

Just a little over four years ago, I would have been saddened by the news, but I would more than likely not have given it much more thought.  Now it is if I am drawn to it, as if I want to help them so how.  I find myself thinking, I could help them, I could walk with them, help them know that they are not alone.   Share what I know, what I have come to understand, what I still struggle with and so on.  I also realize that I need to feel this way, it is my way of working through my own sense of helplessness.  If I can help someone else, I now know that I am helping myself, I am playing an important role in my own healing. 

When I reach out to someone who is hurting, share in their pain, I am dealing with my own.  I am letting my self know that it is okay, that I can cry, that I can long for and still want what is missing.  There is an old cliche that says 'there is strength in numbers' and how so true.  When I am reaching out to someone who is hurting, together, we can face what lies ahead.  

After Rachel died, I had and still have a friend who would call, stop by or take me out.  We would go for a walk, grab a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop, or go see a movie.  I also developed friendships with other moms who had lost a child.  These women helped me, served as guides for me, letting me know I was not alone.  I also knew I could call them, reach out to them whenever I needed to.  They would listened to me and even when I rambled and made no sense at all, I knew they understood.  They had been there.

We can learn so much from life, if we allow ourselves to be open.  We need to approach life as children do.  I watch my grandson, and I marvel at his reaction to everything, how excited he is when he sees a colorful leaf, hears a bird singing, or his amazement when the dog barks and wags his tail.  The wonderment of all things, the excitement of seeing everything for the first time, and the joy of learning.  

Let everything that has happened to you, both good or bad, serve as an opportunity to learn, to teach, and to allow yourself to be ever changing.  

We all have our difficulties, we all have struggles in life, but we also have our joys and triumphs.  When we cannot seem to understand, let someone who has been there guide you.  In time you will be the guide for someone else.  Most importantly allow yourself to learn, to be open, to reach out, and to know that you are not alone, there is always someone who can help, who can lead, who can just stand by and make sure you are okay. 

Rachael has shown me so much, both in life and even more so after her death.  She continually helps me to learn, to see the gifts I have been given, and to understand that others are also seeking, reaching out and walking the same paths as me.  

We are not alone.  We are cared for.  We are loved.  We are so many things to so many people.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.


  1. Just about a week ago, my brother's friend lost his mother in a car accident. Years ago, I would have felt bad, but I would have kept going on with my life just the same. Now that I know what I know, I broke down and cried at the news. In a message to my brother, he apologized for not ever truly understanding how we felt three years ago (which, of course is nothing to be sorry about-- he was so lucky he couldn't relate!). I plan to send him a heartfelt message within the next few weeks. I've decided to wait because he's probably still overwhelmed with the outpouring of condolences, and I know that I would have liked getting a message once the dust settled and everyone has moved on except me and my family. That's a very lonely stage, and the perfect time to reach out, I think.

    I am glad to see that I'm not the only one who consoles-- I never had anyone reach out to me about their loss while I was going through my own (because not many people my age had lost a parent), so now that I am doing that for others, I didn't know if it was annoying! I'm happy to hear that you appreciated the compassion of other mothers at that time. Thank you for sharing your insight!

  2. Sami, you may want to call him or drop a note, now and again later. I found that those who had gone through the loss, knew exactly when to make a phone call, send a note or drop by. At first I thought it was intuition, now I realize that they knew, because they had gone through it. Think back to those days when you felt all alone, was it in the first month, 4 month, etc., that's how I gauge when to drop a card in the mail or make a call.

    Don't be offended if someone doesn't want to talk either, just let them know you will call again in a few weeks or so, and that you are available if they wish to call. It is not you, it is them, they don't know where they are and often push people away while they are trying to figure it all out. I remember not wanting to answer phone calls, or deal with visitors, even months later.

    But they will remember your kindness, and your understanding of their pain. A months and even years later, they will feel cared for and loved.

    Take care, Sami, God bless,

    Love, Rose Mary

  3. Thank you for the advice, Rose Mary! I will put it to good use.


  4. Rose Mary, I am trying to do what you said, let the stuff that has happened to me be an opportunity. Some days it's definitely hard to do that. (As you know all too well) You are sure right that our adversities make us more tolerant, compassionate and willing to reach out to others.

  5. Nancy, I think of you, and all you are coping with. Yes it is hard at times, especially when those we love and believe in seem to let us down. But it is because of our individual short comings that we sometimes act the way we do. I also know that it is often easier said than done. Oh, but when we can get it done, we feel so much better for it.

    Take care,

    Rose Mary xoxo