Losing a loved one is multidimensionally tough, especially when that loved one was well loved by everyone. Such has been the case with my father-in-law; so many dear friends, so many poignant stories.
It makes me glad, and sad, all at once to hear them speak about Ray. Even at 90, he left us all too soon. So ... how does one navigate these ever fluctuating tides of grief? By letting them have total sway.
But, at first, there was this strange, anonymous sensation of deep heaviness. When I tried to identify it, I saw the image of my father-in-law. "Oh. Yes ...," I'd sigh ... "That's it," as if I had forgotten.
Then, as the shock settled in, with arrangements to be made and myriad new things to attend to, I came to recognize that "heaviness" more easily ... never any lighter, but always a little clearer.
Grief is tenaciously bent on stealing time and thought. Just when I'm in the middle of something, I find my mind absconded away by a gilded memory, or a regret, and as suddenly returned to the present.
And yet ...
During this time, I have begun to see something most unexpected: grief is actually a gift. It reminds, teaches, and encourages, and it makes relevant that which one might otherwise easily disregard.
As excruciating as it often is, grief is also an opportunity to learn who we are in the face of who they were, and to reevaluate our current path. It takes us on a necessary journey which we cannot avoid.
Nor should we. Although it is tempting to want to dodge these emotional onslaughts by busying myself with necessary tasks, I am, instead, allowing for the bittersweet humility that comes with grief.
I can still hear Ray's infectious laugh as he physically leans forward into it, his rare remonstrations, for my good, are as clear this very moment as when he uttered them, and they all come in turns.
Whether I am laughing or crying, I am most grateful, because the steps I will take from this point onward are built, in part, upon my experiences with Ray. Grief is painful loss, and grief is also a gift.