For the past few years, it seems like I have been in a low-level, almost stealthy state of grief.
Sometimes it’s for loved ones, both the 2-legged and 4-legged varieties, who have passed on. And there are plenty of those. I’m always amazed when I hear that someone well into adulthood, usually in their 30s or 40s, remarks that a recent funeral is the first one they’ve ever been to, or that they’ve only been to one or two.
I consider myself a big-time introvert, and I’ve been to a lot. I’m sure my granddad’s funeral when I was 11 wasn’t my first one, but that’s the first one I remember vividly. I remember it like it was last year, despite the fact that it took place in 1988.
We lost a beloved, long-time babysitter to a drunk driver on a rural road one bright sunny morning a few years before. We also lost two beloved kitties and two wonderful dogs in the few years before that.
I lost a “brother” ten years later, whose funeral also sticks with me. Sometimes I write “brother” in quotes and sometimes I don’t; he wasn’t blood, but he was our brother just the same.
In 2001-2002, two more kitties crossed the rainbow bridge within a year and a half of each other, and my partner’s granddad passed away right in between. Although I had met him only once, there was an instant connection formed then, an Understanding – we “got” each other, and we liked each other a lot.
And after that, death has usually happened in three’s for me.
In 2005-2006, we lost a lovely dog and two uncles within six months.
My other granddad passed away in 2015, right after I attended the funeral of the husband of a dear patient in my practice. (It was such an honor to be invited; whenever I’m invited into the personal life of a patient in this way, I never decline.) And a few months after that, a lovely family friend (who was kind of an aunt to us) succumbed to an aggressive form of breast cancer. Right around the same time, the daughter of another lovely couple of patients passed away. The elderly couple is still alive and well; they’re such beautiful people; they’re the ones who sent me flowers after my hysterectomy. They’ve always been such gems. Connections between beings are so gorgeous. ❤
And now, the real countdown has begun for another aunt–my mom’s only sister (and indeed, her only sibling)–who has been fighting the good fight against pancreatic cancer, but alas, she’s losing the battle. Pancreatic cancer sucks; it’s one you tend not to walk away from. The doctors have stopped her chemo treatments because they’re no longer a match for the growth or spread of her tumors. It’s only a matter of weeks to a couple months now. My mom’s mom, 91 and in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, is likely not far behind.
I’ve held off on making any concrete plans for the rest of the summer. I know there will be a trip to make soon.
And then there’s our other kitty, Murphy, who is getting on in years. He will be 15 next month. He’s happy and reasonably healthy for now, but he does have a benign thyroid tumor that has shrunk his size by half. And he’s elderly, so there’s that. I know that he has surpassed the average life expectancy for a male cat, so every day we enjoy with him now is cake. And we really do enjoy each other. He’s still so alert, cuddly, active, and cognizant. But I do know that the end of his road is closer at hand than its beginning.
I know that death, and thus the grieving process for those still here, is inevitable. It’s the circle of life, of course. It’s the one thing all life has in common.
It doesn’t make it suck any less, though.
I often wonder if everyone has gone through this much, or if I have indeed gone through more than my share? Or maybe I’ve gotten off “easy” and gone through less than my share? It’s hard to know. A by-product of a big family, lots of fur-kids, and unexpected social prominence, I guess.
And then sometimes I grieve for those still living, because although they’re alive and well, too much geography separates us. I can’t be near them physically, and much of my time is spent missing them.
I know I did that to myself. I was the one who moved 930 miles (1,496 km) away. That was my choice, and I own that. It doesn’t mean that I miss those people any less, though. ❤
All of this missing and grieving, though, has a Silver Lining. It must mean one thing: that I’ve had a life rich with loved ones. Despite being an introvert, I’ve been blessed with beautiful connections with beautiful people.
Which means that when the time comes for me to cross over, I’ll probably have quite the welcoming committee! We’ll have a big-ass friend-and-family reunion, followed by an equally big-ass party. 🙂
For now, I have the gifts of their memories, the blessing of having known them, the miracle of their having touched me, enriching my life. Because my life is indeed all the richer for the presence of these wonderful souls in it. And that blessing continues long after they’ve left the physical realm, because their spirits still exist. And call me strange if you like (I wouldn’t blame you if you did), but sometimes I get the feeling that they’ve dropped by for a visit. For now, that’s good enough; I have the feeling that I know what awaits on the other side later. 🙂