I feel very lucky at my age to not have suffered many losses, deaths of loved ones. My grandparents are all gone, but my parents, my in-laws, my siblings and their spouses, and of course, my own husband, are all alive and well. Even my dogs are happily living their best lives. I haven’t suffered the kind of loss many of my friends have. As I get older, I’ve looked around and noticed how many of my peers have lost really important people, and I suppose I’m at that age where it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. With all that grace, today, I was hit by a grief throat punch I haven’t felt in a long time.
It was earlier this morning and my husband and I were getting ready for the day, joking around, and I said “And now you know the rest of the story!” I stopped and said, who was that guy? Harvey. Not Lee. Do you know his name?” Then he laughed at my Lee Harvey (Oswald) comment, and began rummaging through his own memory bank for the name. I quickly googled in and joyfully announced it was “Paul Havey.” How many of you know Paul Harvey? Maybe you listened, or you heard your parents or grandparents listen. My person was my Grandpa Neil. He loved Paul Harvey and while he was alive, I had zero appreciation for this public radio legend. But when I googled his name, I saw all that popped up, the Wikipedia page, the books, the articles, the links to audio recordings. All of it. And my first thought was “I’ll share with Grandpa!” How silly, right? He’s been gone since 2005. But oh how I would’ve loved to show him all the things that the internet could do, and of course, he would’ve hated all that technology and felt it quite sacrilege. But that split moment when I forgot he was gone, that moment when I wanted to call and share with him, the moment right after, it hurt.
It hurt to think of what I considered him missing out on. I trust he would not feel the same. He would’ve been happy to travel the next leg of his journey never knowing about the world wide web and social media. But all the same, that feeling of deep loss, that he wasn’t here to share something with, something I had finally come of age to actually appreciate, instead of being an annoying teenager rolling my eyes at his offerings, or trying to teach him the ways of the world, rather than listening to all the wisdom he had to offer me but I rejected while he was still here on Earth. The grief of lost opportunities both now and then knocked the wind out of me. I miss him. He was such a great grandpa. He truly was. My sisters and I were so lucky to have him. And today, this morning, I miss him more than I have in a long time. Grief can get you, even 15 years later. It’s not as sharp edged, it doesn’t drag the knife along the flesh for more than a second or two, but it stings.
It still cuts and causes pain. But perhaps my grief and longing for lost opportunities makes me wiser in dealing with the present. In dealing with those I have left. In valuing the opportunities for being educated, for listening to wiser folks wisdom an stories. To listen more, to talk less. To ask more questions. To make sure I don’t go to bed angry….with anyone. To make sure my loved ones know how much I love them. To make sure my friends know they are important and I’m always here for them. To make sure my clients know that their recovery is my top priority and I care deeply for each of them.
…..and that’s the rest of the story. Let any moment of grief also be a moment of gained wisdom. To do better to appreciate and value. To use our words kindly. To listen and convey how much someone means to you, that they took the time to ensure you knew better, more.
I hope as you continue to move through this holiday season, those moments of grief become moments of growth. That you can love better, harder, and smarter in light of the love you’ve lost.