I know the answer to my question. I am doing a good bit of reflecting this week as I made this picture my Facebook profile picture. Thursday would have been my oldest brother’s 55th birthday. He was 48 when he died in a car accident. There are moments of those first hours, days, and weeks that are etched forever in my memory and heart. But I will say the intensity of the pain of loss does seem to change with time.
And yet there are times the ache of loss feels deep. There is a catch in my breathing, a pit in my gut, and a tightness in my chest that can stop me in my steps.
I still miss Len. I miss celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary and hearing he and Marcia talk about all the adventures they shared. I miss him at Olivia’s soccer games and in Noah and Lauren’s wedding conversations, in Sonta’s love for doing hair and pursuing cosmetology and in Jean Marc’s High School basketball season. I miss calling him and hearing him. I miss his laughter, his singing, and his quirky sense of humor and deep grounded and abundant faith. I miss him often, even after all these years. I do think grief changes over time, but I also do believe that I would not be honest if I did not say, grief also is always in a tender space of my heart. It is there every morning and every evening, and I believe it will be there until my last breath.
This week we also celebrated my Mom’s 77th birthday in a treehouse in California. It was delightful in so many ways, and I was aware in almost every moment that my Dad wasn’t with us. I was driving the rental, he wasn’t smoking his pipe on the cool treehouse deck, we poured our own happy hour, and he didn’t get to experience all we did with Andrew who lives in Monterey for a year completing the post naval graduate program. He would have enjoyed so much of what we did, and we miss him deeply. Our tears flow frequently, our memories are sweet, our conversations often reflect our travels, the stories, the experiences, the laughter, and the yearning to hear my Dad’s voice speak about all that was important to him.
And this picture was my Mom’s 75th birthday. The last one my Dad was here to celebrate. I am deeply grateful for images that remind us how much fun this celebration was.
Our celebrations continue, our laughter is genuine, our smiles reflect authentic gratitude, but our hearts ache in the absence of a man whose presence brought us such stability and goodness.
And so our family now feels the reality of loss in Len and my Dad. The feeling will always be that we are missing two deeply loved family members. We live each day; we welcome new family through birth and marriage, and we know that no one can fill the space of Leonard Hugh or Peter B. Grief changes over time, but grief is also always with us. It is my hope and prayer that as a community, we can enter those tender spaces with one another, be curious, ask questions, acknowledge the absence that is felt, and know that every grief journey is unique. There is not a timeline, there is no right way to grieve, and allowing tears to flow is healing.
I am grateful that grief changes over time, and I also am willing to embrace the tender spaces in my heart where the river of sorrow flows. That river, although known to provoke tears and that deep ache at times, also reminds me of just how much I loved and was loved.