Last spring, my daughter came home sad because her friend had been called out of class to learn she’d lost her grandma. I remember that feeling, both as the friend watching someone I cared about getting the bad news and as the child, stepping out in the hallway to hear news that will change her life forever. My trip to the hallway came in sixth grade when my mother’s mother passed away after a long illness. It was sad, but expected. We were prepared, but it still hurt. It was still scary.
Watching others go through loss is the only preparation we get for the loss. If we’re lucky, we start off small with the loss of a pet, or the grief that comes when a friend moves away. Most of us lose a grandparent in grade school. It is sad, but familiar, territory.
But the unexpected losses hit us the hardest. The loss of friends, taken too young. Of family, departing before their time. Nine years ago this month, the loss of my Dad to a freak accident struck me with a pain I thought for several years I might never escape. A few years later, sitting beside my best friend as she said goodbye to her infant son, I realized I had passed through all the expected losses in my life and into the unexpected ones. The ones that shock, that take us to our knees. The loss of a spouse, of a brother, of a child.
Today, my beloved cousins are experiencing this devastating loss. Early this morning, they said goodbye to their father, my Uncle Chuck. We called him Uncle Chuckles when I was a kid and the name fit–he had a smile and a joke for every occasion. My aunt is experiencing the unimaginable loss of a spouse after many decades of happy marriage. A loss that I watched my own mother go through after my father died, and one that I would wish on no one, even as I realize its inevitability.
All of this is on my mind as I write this morning. I’m thousands of miles away, but I still feel like that little girl watching her friend getting called into the hallway to get the devastating news. My heart is tender this morning for my family as they suffer through and for myself, because each loss carries with it the memory of those that came before.