Yesterday there was a memorial service for my cousin Jerry. Jerry was only 63 years old and died of a massive stroke a week before. At the visitation his siblings appeared shell-shocked. And rightly so; just two weeks ago we were all together at a family reunion and Jerry seemed the epitome of health and fitness. At the reunion Jerry and I talked about how nice it was to be together as a family at something other than a funeral. Two weeks ago…
And now here we are at his memorial and it just seems surreal. Earlier this year Jerry suffered the loss of his daughter Jennifer. She was only 30 years old. One of his sisters suggested that perhaps he hadn’t recovered from his broken heart but I doubt that caused his stroke. Still I wonder??? And at the service yesterday I couldn’t help but imagine the pain his wife Susan and surviving daughter Alison were now bearing; not to mention his mother, sisters, and brothers. I’m ashamed to admit that I have this perverse habit at funerals of imagining myself in the grieving parties place -maybe others do it, too. I wonder how I would feel if it was Deb (or God forbid one of our kids)? How could I go on without her (them)? The pain and sorrow seem insurmountable.
But somehow we manage. We human beings are a pretty resilient species. Somehow we put one foot in front of the other and carry on. We grieve. We cry. But we live on. We must learn to let go.
Let go! How many times have I been told to just “let go”? Let go of anger. Let go of pettiness. Let go of jealousy. Let go of pride. It’s not easy. But letting go of “bad things” is easier than letting go of the “good stuff”. But we must do that too.
Letting go of Tyson when he left for the Air Force was difficult; I drove home alone with my heart breaking and tears streaming. Letting go of Bess after we delivered her to her dorm in Madison was painful; Deb and I rode home in silence, neither of us able to look at the other. On Bess’s wedding day I felt I was letting go of my little girl but I knew she would never leave me (not really). Moving back to Missouri and leaving Blake in Wisconsin at the University; feeling certain he felt abandoned (and feeling guilty and sad all at once), that was tough. But during those times of “letting go” we knew that we would be together again. Even when Tyson was deployed to Iraq we somehow knew our prayers would be answered and he would “come home”. But death – the final surrender. How do we let go? And yet I know that we have no choice. It will happen to each of us.
Yesterday one of the ministers that spoke at Jerry’s service said we all have a God-sized hole in our hearts and when we get to heaven it is filled. Maybe we needed to let go of Jerry so he could have his heart filled but it seems to me that his loved ones had the holes in their hearts made larger by his loss. Still it’s comforting to think about Jerry with his trademark smile enjoying a beautiful eternity with his daughter Jennifer and his dad, my Uncle Les.
But God if you’re listening (and I know that you always are) I’m not really ready to let go and I imagine that Jerry wasn’t either.