Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Memories and Exit Ramps

Traveling along the highway of life with a luggage rack loaded with grief, it often seems there are endless reasons and opportunities for taking an exit ramp, as situations and conversations bring forth memories from previous experiences related to pain and loss.  I try to keep my eyes focused only on the space illuminated by the headlights directly in front of me, but sometimes things on the side of the road or off in the distance catch my eye, and looking at and even following those sightings cannot be avoided. There are lots of things along the way that I didn't think I was going to have to face - some of which I hadn't even be aware before I'd traveled this very road - and, once I was and once I did, that we didn't think I was nearly strong enough to traverse. The triggers that force me to exit for pit stops can come from varying sources - reading about or hearing about someone else with a similar story, being asked for advice related to my own struggle, or even just watching others about whom I care go through a trial like my family has since the time when my dad got sick.

Interestingly, I think, at some of those exits are emotions that are strangely unlike those I felt while I was beginning my own journey down this rough part of the road, in this construction zone of sorts.  I remember the feelings of powerlessness, sadness, confusion, and anger from during that time, but, looking at it at this point through my "things may appear smaller than actual size" rearview mirror, especially if I am able to offer anything at all to someone else from this vantage point, makes me feel strong and useful, ... a Silver Lining I suppose, one that I hope translates into a benefit for someone other than just myself. 

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been slowed in the right-hand lane as I've watched my friend and her family bring her father to hospice care on Friday two weeks ago and then say goodbye to him on the following Wednesday, the exact time frame that my family had with my dad.  I remember how in my family's situation there was so much to do, an overwhelming amount of things in fact, and then there was nothing.  I know all too well the pain and the helplessness and the feelings of such utter loss and despair that they were feeling as they prepared for the funeral, and I remember how I thought things couldn't get any harder but then how in many ways it seemed like they did after I went home after the memorial service and found my job and other responsibilities waiting for me.  After my dad's illness and his death, it felt like the emptiness, the loneliness, and all the other emotions were something with which I didn't think I could cope or even survive, but somehow I found a way, as I know my friend and others in her family will too.

In addition to having the perspective from inside the rawness of the grief, I now have somewhat of an idea of what it felt like for those around me in those early days of peregrination; it feels like running in place or maybe like being on a scavenger hunt of sorts.  There is so little that can be done to ease the pain of those who have been forced to enter onto this highway; the best I can try to do is just to ease off the gas pedal in my own vehicle to let them merge into my lane, to give them a nod of acknowledgement, to let them know that they are not alone.

"There is a sacredness in tears" ~ Washington Irving

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