Funerals and loss are a part of life from the very beginning.
In my life experience, children were not sheltered from death. I vividly remember visiting my great-grandmother on her deathbed. We called her Buscia. She knew a little English, but not much. She beckoned me to her bedside, smiled, and squeezed my hand.
For a long time, I wondered why my parents did that to me.
Then I lost my grandmother. It wasn’t about my loss. It was about her loss. I was losing her. She was losing everyone. I remember Grandma smiling when I put my newborn in her arms. Two days before he died, Dad mirrored Grandma’s smile as his arms encircled Miss E, then a tiny infant.
The circle of life. Now, in the fourth quarter, I see that I’m entering a new rotation of that circle.
At 99, Grandpa lamented that all he seemed to do was go to funerals. “All my peers are gone,” he said. “I don’t have anyone to talk to.”
“You have us,” I argued.
“It’s not the same,” he said.
I didn’t understand. Mom, at 95 (minus 4 months,) Mom, known as Busia to my grandchildren, tells me the same thing Grandpa did.
And now that sentiment circles around to me.
Tomorrow, I’ll be at my sister-in-law’s funeral. She’s the second sibling of many. If I live as long as Mom and Grandpa, and Buscia, I’ll say goodbye to many more siblings and friends. These losses are different. These losses are not only part of my history, they are part of my present.
Several years ago, Loved-One and I watched a news blurb about the secrets of living a long life. One “secret” was the ability to deal with loss.
“Of course,” Loved-One said, with all his lovely pragmatism. “If you live a long time, you’re going to suffer more loss than most. Cuz not everyone will.”
And the beat goes on.
I’ll miss you, Joan. You touched more people than you will ever know. Here’s a photo of Joan and her little brother, my Loved-One. They’re just one year apart in age. My favorite memory that Loved-One shared with me:
According to Loved-One’s older sister, he was raised by nature. That’s how much he loved being outside. One day, he took Joan fishing with him. Joan kept getting nibbles on her line, but couldn’t seem to catch anything. That’s because she couldn’t bring herself to put a hook through the poor innocent worm. Instead she simply tied the worm to the line. I love Joan’s kindness. She remained kind throughout her life.