Today we celebrated Mother’s Day with my eighty-eight year old grandmother – all her children and grandchildren together. My aunts put on a fabulous spread of cakes and pastries, the coffee was good, the conversation was, well, hilarious… Put some of us together and it’s a rather entertaining experience!
It was only when I came home and looked through all the photos I took today that I noticed something I’d completely glossed over between the great food, witty banter and raucous laughter. Our clan, our group, our family has gravely diminished in number.
It started with an aunt in December 2011. She died of cancer. Then an uncle in September 2012, also cancer. And then with wrenching, heart-ripping swiftness, my dad of a sudden heart attack in January 2013. A few months later, another uncle. Voices not heard today, silent and no longer seen at our feast table.
Unseen but not forgotten.
Our collective loss has altered us permanently. There is no going back to the way things were. As individuals, we face difficult seasons ahead now without partners, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters. We stood bereft at four family funerals, tears streaming down our faces. And as if the initial loss of the person you loved so much is not enough, time drags on and cruelly displays to you the sheer enormity of a complex network of losses all connected to this death. You can wallow for a while, but eventually you have to turn and carry on, with gaping heart wounds and heads hung in sorrow.
The human heart will heal – if you give it enough care and don’t resist the process of grief. I saw it today as we laughed and reminisced about Dad’s silly antics. Our heads are starting to lift, and we can smile.
As I contemplated our shrunken family party, I realised a greater truth. That death and the loss of those we loved so dearly have only served to make us care for each other more. Bereavement brings an alarming clarity to your inner world. You have to sit up and listen. Hear this! – your conscience is told – now is the time to love more, care more, appreciate more, talk more, hug more. No more wasting time in showing your grandmother, mother, aunt, cousin how much you value them. Our diminished family has been sorely pressed and wounded, yes, but we are not deterred or destroyed.
Our love has simply grown larger.
We are pushed hard from all sides. But we are not beaten down. We are bewildered. But that doesn’t make us lose hope. 2 Cor 4:8 NIRV