The thing about grief . . . Part 5
The amazing thing about grief is the realization that not all of what you valued is really that important. It strips away all pretenses to the core of who you really are, and it helps you to eventually see more clearly who really loves you.
Simply put: grief changes you.
Before Reed’s death, I had lost my way valuing busyness, promotion, achievement, and even material possessions. My faith was still there, but too much value had been placed in things that were temporal and not hope-filled. All of those non-important things did not make me a better person nor did they bring me comfort when I needed it. I didn’t care about any of it, and I would have traded it all to change a moment in time.
If grief changes you (which it does); so, too do your relationships change. Sadly, we have lost friends since Reed’s death. This isn’t a judgment. The loss was just more than the friendship could withstand. This is one of those by-products of loss about which no one really talks. In some ways, I think they did us a favor. Just as we read in Ecclesiastes, maybe they were just to be our friends for a season.
But the friends we’ve gained . . . oh, the relationships that have sweetened. All along our journey I could feel the prayers said for our family. Those prayers carried us when we didn’t have one ounce of energy left. The outpouring of love was overwhelming. Our friends and family are our greatest assets, this side of heaven. I would give anything to have Reed back, but I wouldn’t give up one single relationship to do so.
There were also the acts of kindness and the gestures that were tokens of love and remembrances of Reed. Our favorites being the time that someone shared a small piece of Reed’s life through a story that we didn’t know. Even though they made us cry (happy tears), they brought us such joy. Each time was a remembrance that it was people and relationships that we value more than anything else.
Every thought, card, gift, hug, or act is something that I will never forget, because the giver is giving more than they might even know. What message they are really sending is “I haven’t forgotten him”. They squash the greatest fear held by bereaved parents – that no one will remember their child. Their stay on earth is so short that long lasting legacies seem impossible.
For those changed by grief and for those supporting the grievers, we know that really isn’t true. Because the nature of the change resulted from that loss, and thus, a legacy was born.
So here I sit, reminded of one of the greatest acts of love given to me recently. It will come as no surprise to learn I am dreading graduation. Reed had such big dreams – proclaiming that he was going to Yale in the 6th grade. I am proud of his friends/cousins and excited for them, but as a teacher who loves learning about as much as Reed did, this leaves an enormous hole in my heart.
The gift came out of nowhere, which really is the best kind of surprise. I wasn’t expecting it at all, but there wrapped in the love of my nephew came the first gift of hope for commencement day. I don’t want to speak to his reason for asking, because I really don’t know why. The request was “Auntie, can you bring your camera so I can take a graduation picture with Reed?” The request came at my other nephew’s wedding and caught me completely off-guard. I just sat with tears streaming down my face.
We did a little planning, and after a while, we agreed on what we wanted. Now, trust me, he has much better senior pictures, but in my heart the gift he gave to me that day will be the one that I remember forever. Once again, my heart was changed because now I have one tiny little hopeful slice for graduation – the love of sweet young man (whose heart knew exactly what I needed). For bringing me joy to fill in the sadness, I love you for being a reminder of what really matters. LOVE!