When someone you love dies, there seem to be certain universal truths that all who mourn inherently experience.
No one tells you what will happen. It just does. And like a shared whisper, it appears to be true for everyone.
For example, in those first few months (or perhaps it will be years? I don’t know yet) of missing him or her you not only remember the person who has died, but you also recall in much detail everything about the end.
In the past six months since Papi died, in fact, most of my memories and thoughts of him seem to be focused not so much on what I remember of the 54 years we shared together—but rather on every element about the last one.
I am talking about memories of the final things that he and I shared together, to be exact.
The last words I said to him.
The last dinner we had together at my house.
The last great-grandchild he got to meet.
The last Christmas… Easter… birthday.
The last laugh we shared together.
The last time the whole family was together.
The last time I saw him—and how he looked.
The last time we celebrated Mass together.
The last time I drove him to the doctor… or the store… or to church.
I don’t know what exactly I’m trying to piece together. But I do know that my experience regarding the final year seems to be common, conceivably even universal.
Today I read,
“In a culture that values autonomy and self-reliance, we sometimes imagine that we can call only on our own personal strength to shoulder the burdens of those we care for and to face our own difficulties. The Gospel reminds us again and again that God’s love is our true source of strength. On him the strongest person can lean without apology.”
~in Magnificat, Morning Prayer for November 5, 2014
Perhaps recounting what the last or final moments were like is simply a way to name, to touch, what is no longer here… a concrete and tangible way to acknowledge the hole left behind in my heart and in my world by a man too big for words.
Papi would have certainly liked hearing my stories aboutChile, the people, and the culture I’ve experienced here.
“Somehow, I have always known deep inside me that I’m only here, in this life, traveling on my way to somewhere else. Even as I strive to understand how to heal and nurture my human hunger for “home,” I remain thankful that my spirit, my heart of hearts, knows it will never feel at home in this life. My hunger for home, my need for security and intimacy and stability, is nothing less than God’s way of sending me a personal call, an invitation, to seek Him and to set my eyes on my everlasting and eternal home…
I choose to open myself to healing and love and hope, trusting that this will lead me to true freedom, even though I know this also opens my heart to feel hurt and pain and sorrow. I choose to trust in what will happen, in what could happen. But more importantly, I choose to trust in a God who wants to be present in whatever does happen. And when I do, I will be shown first-hand the great and marvelous things that God has in mind for those who love Him.”
~from my book, “The Journey: a Guide for the Modern Pilgrim”