On October 1st, while I was being amazed at the offerings of the sky, my Aunt Norma was on a final journey to her loving husband who passed away eight years ago. As a hole in the stormy clouds above the ocean opened up, it sent rays of light from above, and chills ran up and down my body. This is usually my reaction when I get to witness this natural phenomena, but it felt stronger that day.
Yesterday I visited my other aunt and talked to my mom in Alaska; they had both lost a sister the day before. For my mother, that is a daughter, a close family friend, a great grand child and a sister, that she has lost in less than 2 years. I got to hug two cousins yesterday and renew our cousin-love vows. I stopped by to give my uncle a hug and to renew our vow of family love. I have recently been rebuilding friendships with the children of the aunt who just died, and I am trying to support them through this hard time.
All of this has me thinking about the nature of loss. How very different the loss of one person can be to each of us; how the news hits us and how it settles around us. Our experiences with loss, and our relationship and history with the lost one, make such a difference. Some want to laugh, some need to cry, others want to reminisce, while some just want to ignore the pain. It is very hard to know which way a grieving person is leaning on that particular day, or hour or, even, that minute. I am doing the best that I can for each. The biggest thing I think I can do, is to be a good listener and let them lead me to the place they are, emotionally. I offer gentle sympathy. After a lot of listening, I can usually offer something that I think will help. Sometimes it is just a hug, or hanging out for awhile. Sometimes it is an action I can take. Either way, I try and be gentle. And yes, this loss is my loss also, so I’ll need to be gentle with me too.
I also spent time with my daughter’s family yesterday. As usual, I drug them all out to see Nature’s glory in the sky. Pretty soon, Nola (6) and Cora (7), were dragging me down the sidewalk and around the corner to get better views of the incredible fading rainbow-setting sun-lit sky.
They ran up the concrete steps of a vacant 1930’s church, and still, stood on their tippy-toes to get a better view…then, around another corner, and they careened, arms out, down a wavy concrete ramp.
This loss, like others, seems to bring us together, even as we regret not having spent more time, laughter and rainbows with the one we lost. Let’s just try harder with the ones we have left. I think my aunt would be happy with that vow.
October 3, 2013 at 6:36 pm
Thank you for sharing Patti, and for the grace to invite us in. Being gentle with the being of grieving is good advice, especially since, as you note, grief appears to everyone in a different form. None better. None less real. And they all carry within them brambles of pain. May we learn from wise souls like you that being gentle with the being of grief means being fierce in one’s devotion to loving one’s self and one’s family and to expressing the ever present rainbows of hope. Peace, Joseph
October 3, 2013 at 6:48 pm
2nd take (WP) so messed up lately…
Thank you, Joseph, for the sweet and poetic comment. The most consistent words that I have heard these last 4 years of pain and loss are: be gentle with yourself. This also reminds me to be gentle with others…or I try very hard to. Peace.
October 3, 2013 at 7:06 pm
You’re welcome. Your loving posts and generous spirit are proof your efforts are succeeding. 🙂
October 3, 2013 at 7:08 pm
That was beautiful Patti. And yes, I believe that Aunt Norma would be happy with the vow of “Let’s just try harder with the ones we have left.”
It was good to see and hug you… Love you cousin.
October 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm
You too, Heather!
October 3, 2013 at 7:52 pm
Beautiful tribute. We shouldn’t need to be reminded but we all do. Thanks.
And a gorgeous header picture … deeply autumnal.
October 3, 2013 at 8:06 pm
Thank you, Marilyn. I’m obviously going a little nutty on pumpkins, but this too shall pass:>) Glad you enjoyed. Writing this was a way to remind myself too, of course.
October 3, 2013 at 9:11 pm
Lovely thoughts, Patti, on such a sad occasion as the loss of a loved one. The first picture is so beautiful … every time I see the sun breaking through clouds like this, I can’t help but be reminded of God, and I think of his glory shining through the darkness of despair.
The second picture reminds me of a recent trip my wife and I took to Oregon. On the way home, as we were driving through the rain, for the first time that I can remember, we saw a complete rainbow (one side to the other) followed by a double rainbow, where both were complete. So cool.
Time spent with those we love is the ultimate gift to ourselves and to those we love. After losing my father late last year, I’ve tried to remind myself of this every day. Once a loved one is a gone, there are no second chances, and no opportunities to spend time with them again.
Thanks for sharing such a personal event in your life, and the wonderful pictures you took.
October 3, 2013 at 9:18 pm
You are so welcome, Dave. I am sorry for your loss.
I’m glad that my photos bring good memories to mind. Taking them and sharing them, is another kind of therapy for me.
Thank you for stopping by and commenting.
October 3, 2013 at 9:26 pm
Holy pumpkin-patches batman-girl…
The irony I see in wishing your family together, as I essentially disavow my own…some exceptions of course…
Your honer towards those who are gone, and yet too to those that remain… is perhaps wise…
We don’t know what those gone before us, know about us now…yet, a better idea about how those who are still with us, and may be gone without further notice…know about us now…
That’s where I would offer, and opine…respect those deceased, by respecting those who live now…
I love you Patricia! A friend, a sister, an inspiration, and a comrade…and your daughter, your son, your grands, your mother, your auntie-J, and her children…yes even that one…
We each must take our own path…would we genuinely begrudge the others for their choices…whether we agree or not? I would have at one time, but no longer…
We may live this life in such petty things…shall we continue to do so…especially as we each near the crest of the great falls?
What is love …is love…what is right and wrong…is right and wrong…
What do we live for?
More importantly perhaps… What do we die for?
If I don’t see you and/or yours tomorrow…or another tomorrow…
Know this…we loved…we lost, and we’ve been together, and apart…
Will I see you, or know you…in another plain…I’m not sure of it…in any mortal consciousness…but I believe that we shall be together, as we have…for perhaps longer than we’ve ever realized…
I respect the mortal needs…
My condolences, and my respects to the family!
May we be the wiser, for those that have gone before us…
October 3, 2013 at 9:51 pm
Thanks, M! Lots of truth in there. Wiser is a good wish…
Hugs & please take care:>)
October 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm
Your treatment of those suffering loss is perfect but I have to wonder if you give yourself the same consideration. It’s your loss too albeit a degree less than some and a degree more than others. Don’t forget to think of yourself in the grieving process.
Since I lost my wife in March I don’t think I’ve grieved properly because you get so tangled up in the things that need to be done, and that’s still ongoing as I have to go slowly and I still find myself speaking to her all the time, even to a ‘Sorry Babe’ when I knocked a photograph of her the other day.Perhaps my lack of acceptance of her going has been what’s made me hold it together this long. But as you say, the process hits different people different ways.
I’m sorry for the terrible losses you’ve had in the last few years but am so glad to hear of the closeness you’ve forged with all those that remain.
xxx Huge Hugs xxx
October 3, 2013 at 10:15 pm
Thank you, David. I live alone and it has been very difficult to come out of my cave and be with my family. I am so happy on days that I do see them. My aunt’s death reminded me of the many reasons that I need to be with my family more.
Only March…everything is probably still so raw. Holding it together, as you know, can be a blessing and a burden. It can also be overrated! :>) I hope you find the balance soon.
Thank you for your generosity here and such warm thoughts.
Come back any time.
October 3, 2013 at 10:02 pm
So sorry to hear of another loss in your family. You certainly are showing us how to handle loss with grace. Please take my virtual hug and remember I love you. And awesome photos!
October 3, 2013 at 10:19 pm
Thank you, but there is no grace around here. I do know that you love me and I hope you know that I love you too. I am just trying to put one foot in front of the other.
Glad you like the photos and thank you for stopping by and commenting. Got that hug too:>)
October 3, 2013 at 10:04 pm
Hello Dear Dear Patti. I am sorry for you loss, and I thank you for this beautiful piece, so lovingly written and beautifully illustrated by the photos. I especially loved the description of you and your grandchildren chasing rainbows, and the vow you made. I was part of a grief ritual on Wednesday, held by an African shaman from Bukino Faso. It is my observation that western society is scared of grief, and often rushes it or suppresses it or medicalises it. I think you are doing incredible work, through this blog and your book, to balance that and make grief ‘ok’, however painful or uncomfortable. Much love and gratitude my friend for modeling such courage on your path, and love to all your family at this time. Hugs, Harula xxxxxxxx
October 3, 2013 at 10:28 pm
Oh, Harula, thank you!
I hope you are able to tell us about that ritual on your site. And more about your Forgiveness conference.
I think our family is beginning to have its own grief ritual…we seem to come together to hug, cry, reminisce, scream and laugh. Then we go back to our own homes and remain close, or closer to our loved ones who are near and far. A few more losses and we may all be living in the same grand hut!
Thank you for being here and sharing your thoughts and love.
October 4, 2013 at 6:15 am
Beautiful, Patti. Reminders how family and friends gather together in times of grief. Beautiful the way the grandkids are helped through. The vows made at these times last and we remember. When I get agitated over stupid stuff, I remember that Vic and I, our sons, and community faced his death with overwhelming love and a few last days of deep peace, and that love was all that mattered in the end. So when I’m bent out of shape, I ask myself and truly feel the depth of the question: Will this matter at my death? Usually the answer is no.
October 4, 2013 at 6:36 am
Good point, Elaine. I usually put the losses we have had up against the petty things. Thank you for stopping by this morning.
October 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm
What a lovely post, Patti. The photos are, of course, beautiful, awe-inspiring, but so are your words. Your approach to grief is perfect: “The biggest thing I think I can do, is to be a good listener and let them lead me to the place they are, emotionally.” Big hug ❤
October 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm
Thank you Marie, I should go in and clean up my choppy writing, but….it came from the heart and there is no grammar police there:>) Glad you enjoyed.
October 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm
No, don’t clean up your writing. It’s perfect as is 🙂
October 4, 2013 at 5:18 pm
Just beautiful, Patti. Loved seeing the grandchildren chasing the rainbow. I think it is wonderful that “signs in the heavens” can speak to us with so much power.
October 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm
Thank you, Susan. It was a wonderful moment with those grands of mine.
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October 4, 2013 at 9:53 pm
Thank you, Georgia!
October 8, 2013 at 11:24 pm
Hi Patti, thanks for dropping by my blog and liking.
October 8, 2013 at 11:25 pm
You are welcome.