“It’s not what you accomplish in life that counts – it’s what you overcome”
Well, the timing of that message to me from a friend this morning couldn’t have been more perfect. It was a reminder to carry on. And sometimes, life can cause a pause. I’m in one of those pauses right now.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing – I think it happens when one processes new information, to adjust to news, to let the brain catch up to circumstances. Pauses take time. Sometimes they take a lot of time. Of course, this is directly correlated to the actual drama of the news itself. Hence, I guess, someone coined the term, “pregnant pause” to explain a really long time of “nothing”.
I’m swirling a bit in this pause. As always, it is about me. I’m at the centre – looking around those people who surround me. And in my mind’s eye, I am watching them. I watch to see how they react – to see if they are crying, hugging, smiling. I spectate. They perform. Only, they don’t see me watching. I’m in a different house, a different city, a different province. Yet – they are so clear to me.
I had visited these people only last summer. Kevin and I had gone to BC to visit. Thank goodness we did as this visit has given me context with which I can imagine their grief, their suffering, and their relief. The visit was more important than I could have known at the time and the visit almost didn’t happen. I was just not sure if I was travelling too soon after my chemo had ended. It was always that way, my concern about my immune health. It was on a wing and a prayer that I decided that life is meant to be lived. That’s tougher to do than it sounds. It was a good decision and a good rule to live by.
Pam’s voice was soft and low. This was in marked contrast to the raucous I heard in the background. The children and grandchildren had already arrived to her house – the house where she and Brian had lived. The house where they had entertained friends and family. The house where Brian had told stories and stuffed the walls full of joyous belly laughter. The house that gave the family comfort, character to grow into strong individuals, and history to ground them when their roots were ripped from the family soil.
“I am okay, Stacey,” Pam reassured me. “I have been grieving for a long time now.”
I knew that. I had witnessed that as late as last summer.
“The thing I grieve for the most is that Brian was robbed of his experience as a grandfather. He never got to appreciate the gift of grandchildren. It’s not fair that he missed this part of life.”
She was right. I hadn’t thought of that. I wanted to tell he that he would never miss what he never knew and that it was “her” that missed watching him grandfather his children’s children. No need to voice that one. It would be me yapping away in the face of a woman who was, quite simply, masked quiet by grief. She paused on the phone. I heard her breathe. I heard the sadness in her sigh that told me everything that words would never be able to tell. I listened. We were with each other, though on either sides of Canada. Distance is only a physical measure – not spiritual. And we were spiritually linked.
She was the first to lose a Mom – of all the cousins. She was the last to lose a Dad – of all the cousins. She was the first to lose a partner. There is something to be said about being first and last. We look to see what it will feel like when something happens. We look to see if it felt the same for all of us when it is over. Losing a spouse to Alzheimer’s… I’m not sure if there is anything more challenging than that. It’s like a double or triple death. It is to lose a person – one piece at a time. At least, that’s how I think it must be.
She is the Matriarch of the family. That is the role. How will this role be played? What are the expectations for her? She must be brave. She must be strong. She must be clever. She must be stoic. She must be….. everything that everyone needs. And then grieve herself. She is at the centre of the circle – looking out at everyone around her and watching them to see how they cope. Some will be angry. Some will be relieved. Some will turn their backs to her and some will turn to her for comfort. She remains in the middle of the pause.
But it cannot last too long.
A breath in time, really.
And then, life must move on.
They will re-adjust to their new lives. I know this to be true. Life will never be the same again. Ever. That’s the way it goes. Each event leaves a mark on our lives. Each person, we carry as a tattoo on our souls. The ink – indelible. We never forget – forever changed.
But for a while – we pause.