Sadness can alter your memory. It can trick you into believing the lie that suffering was all there was to living. It isn’t true. Amidst the suffering there was true life, the one were a joke was laughed at, a hand was held, or “hey how are you” was shared. These small things in the everyday mattered, and still matter.
The end did not negate the years of holding his babies, of taking them to soccer, of kissing me goodnight, of the worst dad jokes possible or of just sitting together wherever we were…because the place didn’t matter.
Hope finds it hard to return if it has to fight through regret and guilt. They where the bookends that held me captive, torturing me with a continual reel to reel of all that was bad in the end days. The “what ifs” intertwining each chapter with nagging questions.
“What if I had prayed harder…”
“What if we had tried another doctor…”
“What if he had wanted to stay a bit more…”
“What if I had been more…”
Answer-less questions that feed guilt because they can’t be answered from the grave.
Before the suffering I knew the answers. Yes he loved me and knew I loved him. Yes his kids were his greatest achievements and nothing could alter that. Yes he found joy in life, in nature, in his faith and those he loved. They were unaltered memories. They didn’t have question marks.
I had added the question marks to the statements of his life. I had warped the looking-glass of my memory. I had forgotten the smiles and could only see his pain.
I needed to see hope again. To believe hope was possible. I remember falling to my knees on my bedroom floor, desperate to know that moving on was OK. Stuck between the holding on and the letting go. Only a decision away but uncertain if letting go would leave him behind. I asked God to free my heart of the guilt and betrayal that pushed hope away. To let go of those unanswerable weights and open my life up to new possibilities…even if that was on my own.
I needed to understand that choosing to live was in fact what he had wanted, even though every pore oozed the contrary. I took small steps and made small decisions that supported hope until it became a habit. Grace filled the space guilt left behind and I was able to walk on. Hope grew into a new life because you can’t grow moving backwards.
Honouring those who have died doesn’t have to be sad, live the life they supported, be all you can be. Intertwine the best of them into who you are and go forward knowing they are always in your heart. Smiling …until you meet again.