“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” – Henri Nouwen
This past week, I’ve been running on sheer adrenaline. Last night, I felt the weight of the week fully and was both exhausted and so grateful. Gratitude and grief co-exist. We don’t get one or the other. There’s a menu of emotions we carry and walk with everyday in this life. There is not one simple answer or right way to do life other than to walk it out and do the very best you can with what you have in the moment.
A few reflections on the past few days of Mom’s wake and funeral.
We are loved, so was/is Mom.
Family and friends, old and new, came to witness and walk Mom home with us.
I will miss Mom and am grateful for the long life she shared with all of us.
She loved every single one of us. No one more but certainly all differently. She loved with specificity, not a broad brush. Never saying a bad word about anyone. We are all different and we have different relationships with each other. That’s good. It’s not a contest. It’s just love. Mom did that without measure or counting.
Let stuff go, quickly, don’t let it get a foothold.
Forgive and forget, learn the lesson, forget the experience.
Go to funerals and wakes.
Be present to witness, hold, laugh, cry.
Each one of us can be ministers to souls by simply showing up.
No words necessary, simple presence.
A long embrace.
Thank you deeply to all who did that for us this week.
Be optimistic, hopeful and light.
Love without condition or counting.
Anything less is not love.
A few things I wanted to say about Mom but didn’t when rushed and flustered by a different format than I expected at the wake:
Mom grew up on the east side of St. Paul with her brothers Don and Stan, mom Laura and Dad Jim. My Mom was 10 years old when her Mom died. She carried that cross every single day of her life. Through the years, Mom spoke often of going to Aunt Helen’s farm on Sundays. I imagine the first time that Aunt Helen told her to pick a chicken, Mom probably thought she was befriending an animal. Little did she know that “Henry” would soon be chicken and dumplings after Aunt Helen, who weighed 80 pounds wet, took an ax and outran the chicken. One night, her Aunt Rose heard a noise in the chicken coop. Rose picked up a rifle and headed into the dark to check it out.
Strong tough farm women. Raising Mom because her Mom was gone way too early. Tender steel. Mom carried those characteristics forward along with Aunt Helen’s Chicken and Dumplings recipe minus the chicken chase and ax, taking the shortcut picking up the chicken at Country Club or Red Owl.
So many times at funerals, we say, “I didn’t know that about (insert dead person).” So the final reflection that I will carry forward as I/we carry on without Mom at the table – listen, learn, get to know the people around you. Don’t assume the worst or judge. Love well and reach out. We are on this journey together. You never know what someone else is going through and the way you can find out is to ask, listen with your heart and merely love. Mom did that so very well. I will try my best to do that to carry her forward into my days ahead. Tender steel indeed.