Gain­ing per­spec­tive from death

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports -

Lord will­ing, next month I’ll turn 67. In a re­cent col­umn, you so­licited se­niors to write about is­sues they are fac­ing. A big one for me is grief.

I met “Shirley” when she was 15 and a ju­nior in high school. I was a se­nior. Both of our fam­i­lies re­lo­cated the same sum­mer from dif­fer­ent states, with us com­ing kick­ing and scream­ing, mad our so­cial lives were be­ing up­ended. It turned out to be a bless­ing in dis­guise.

She was so pretty I was afraid to ask her out. We be­came friends, both be­ing the new kids. She would set me up with her girl­friends so we could dou­ble­date. Af­ter two years, when she was 17, we went out to­gether and were to­gether ev­ery day. I dropped out of night school to avoid get­ting more speed­ing tick­ets try­ing to make it to her par­ents’ house be­fore her 10 p.m. cur­few.

When she was 20 and I was 21, we got mar­ried, and we started our fam­ily 15 months later. When the chil­dren were 7 and 4, we started trav­el­ing in a used Volk­swa­gen camper and told peo­ple we were grow­ing up with our chil­dren. We re­tired four years be­fore Shirley passed away at age 62. That was 33 months ago.

Peo­ple give un­so­licited kind ob­ser­va­tions that I am do­ing so well. I am. To be hon­est, I am not lonely. I have my chil­dren, grand­chil­dren, friends, for­mer co-work­ers and church mem­bers with whom I reg­u­larly in­ter­act.

But there are times when, for no rhyme or rea­son, an empti­ness comes in and takes over. I’ve learned to face, even em­brace, it so the episode passes more quickly and I can heal from the ex­pe­ri­ence and gain a bet­ter per­spec­tive. But the empti­ness is pro­found. It makes all of life look like van­ity.

When I can talk to peo­ple about Shirley, it is the next best thing to be­ing with her. All of our life to­gether seems real again in­stead of be­ing some won­der­ful, long dream that never hap­pened. “How could it be real?” I of­ten think. It was so good for so long. That never hap­pens. Thank you for your beau­ti­ful let­ter. I’m sure it will touch many oth­ers as it has touched me.

My sis­ter’s ex-mother-in-law just passed away. My sis­ter’s chil­dren were still very young when the di­vorce hap­pened, barely into el­e­men­tary school.

Any­way, her mother-in-law thought the world of her, and they got along very well. They saw each other of­ten be­cause of the chil­dren.

I am sure it is break­ing my sis­ter’s heart. What is the proper eti­quette for me to do some­thing for my sis­ter? I am close to this fam­ily also and want to know what I can do for them.

If you’re look­ing for some­thing you can do to com­fort her, bring over a home-cooked meal. Then sit with her and lis­ten, or just sit with her in si­lence. When com­fort­ing some­one who is griev­ing, it’s not about find­ing the exact right thing to say or do. It’s about be­ing there.

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