It was a Sunday. I was sweeping the living room floor. Our phone rang, and it was a landline. Eighteen years ago was the last time that I talked to my mom.
A few days after that we would bury her in the ground.
And now, every year I have that same very short time. To be reminded of my grief. Then, of course, there is the grief that comes around the holidays or when I'm cooking, or when I'm driving down the road.
I think there's a lie that we tell ourselves about grief. I think that lie is that somehow it's supposed to go away. That over time, which is supposed to heal all wounds-whatever the heck that means, will somehow make the pain go away.
I heard a song the other day that had lyrics that with something to the effect of "we tell ourselves that what we found is what we wanted." I found these lyrics to be somewhat profound. Our capacity to lie to ourselves in order to avoid pain knows very few limits.
Because there's an inherent problem with grief that surrounds death; it never goes away. I wish you could've met my mom. It doesn't matter who you are, your life would've been better for having known her.
My mom's life story was a hard one. She experienced trauma in almost every stage of life. Looking back now, with a professional degree in counseling and a decade's worth of experience, I realize that she had a lot of anxiety-driven behaviors and probably struggled with clinical depression.
I have so many good memories of things that she did. She and my dad were married for almost 33 years when she passed away
And yet, I also have regrets. Things that I did that limited my time with her. If I'm really honest with you, I have no idea when the grief will come. I rarely know what will bring tears. I only know grief and tears will come.
And what happens, as many people often feel such pain and decide that they are done loving. They decide that they are done taking a risk.
Or, they decide that they can't admit the pain. They pretend that it isn't there. They feel it, but they try to cover it up with toughness or anger or work or pot or depression. The list of the things that we try to cover the pain up with is long.
But the problem with that approach is that it diminishes our humanity. It reduces our human experience. I believe that death was never supposed to be a part of our story, but it is. And when we try to avoid the pain of death we have to limit our opportunity for love.
When we try to avoid grief we are actually the ones that lose. I can't lie to you, there is a profound sense of grief that runs through late May and almost all of June for me. And yet I truly believe that that profound sense of grief helps me to love my wife and children better.
It helps me to love my friend Joe, who lost his 24-year-old son last summer in a deeper and fuller way. Because our emotions or a mired mess of complicatedness (is that even a word?).
Life is a risk. I sometimes think that half of my job and helping couples who are in a bad place is to convince them to risk again with their partner that hurt them. Love is a risk. Someday, everyone I love will die, or I will die. As uplifting of a thought as that is, it is reality.
But here's what I'm hoping for. I'm hoping that that reality will spur us to love more deeply. I'm desperately optimistic that reality will motivate us to want to work at reconciling more.
Because we are always going to struggle with pain. And we will always be at our best when we are loving others and being loved by others. My mom loved to do things for other people. She loved to help people. She gave herself in service to others.
That's probably a pretty good model for us. That is probably a recipe for a successful life.
There was an ancient writer who once wrote that it is better to go to a funeral than to a party. Because when we go to a funeral we are more likely to take account of our lives. At a funeral we are more likely to measure the number of days that we have which of the same writer wrote is a great way to get wisdom.
If you'd like to hear more of my thoughts on this topic, I made a podcast about it. Click on the word podcast in the banner above. It's episode 103.
May you, my friend reconcile with those from whom you are distant.
May you find love and suck every morsel of opportunity out of it.
May you give love with reckless abandon.
May you accept the pain that comes with the joy.
May you take great risks.
May you experience a love that opens you up to the opportunity of great pain.
Because without the opportunity of great pain, there is probably no great love.
May you live well, my friends.