You Never Get Over It

My mom would have been 79 yesterday.  It's been nearly six years since she passed away, and I miss her more than usual on milestones like those.  

It's funny what you think about when your grief over the loss of someone dear returns to you (as if it ever really left, right?).  

Yesterday I remembered when we forgot my mom's birthday, probably twelve years ago or more.  We had stuff going on that day and were going a hundred miles an hour with our kids in tow, and the whole day passed before we realized it.  

I felt like the worst son in the world.  

Of course, she forgave me.  She always did.  

I'm embracing my grief.  I want to feel it.  The pang of loss and the ache of missing her are welcome within me.  I'm discovering that those feelings help me remember her over time, so I let them in without question when they come knocking.  

I spent about half an hour looking at her photos on her legacy Facebook page.  She always took photos at family events that no one else thought to document very well.  

I thanked her for all of the photos of my boys when they were small.  The family photos with absurd matching hats. The videos with her voice speaking in the background because she was almost always behind the camera.  

And I couldn't stop smiling.  

Recently, I saw an interview with acclaimed actor Billy Bob Thornton where he was talking about grief.  I transcribed it as best I could, and the text is below.  What he said resonated with me deeply: 

I've never been the same since my brother died.  There's a melancholy in me that never goes away... And the only advice I can give people when you lose someone like that is  you won't ever get over it.  And the more you know that and embrace it, the better off you are.  I don't want to forget my brother and I don't want to forget what it felt like when he died, because he deserves it that's how important he was to me.  So if I have to suffer and if I have to be sad for the rest of my life and if I have to be lonely without him, without his particular thing, his sense of humor and what he brought to life. Then that's the way I  honor him.  

Thornton also said that at any given moment, he is "50% happy and 50% sad," which I think is an accurate way to describe how we feel when there is a hole in our life,  shaped like the person we lost.  

I think the percentages probably fluctuate for most of us, but there's some truth for all of us in Thornton's ratio.  

It's good to miss the loved ones we've lost.  The grief we feel doesn't need to overwhelm us.  It shouldn't.  Our loved ones would not want that for us.  

But we can smile through our tears, can't we?  

We can remember them well and hold their memory without spiraling into darkness.  Because when we hold them in our hearts without letting grief take us to unhealthy places, we honor them.  

So yesterday, I wished my mom a happy birthday.  I imagined her with all her siblings, my grandmother who went before her, and her sister who followed this year.  

In my imagination, they are somewhere in time where they are young again, and the grandchildren are playing as we are gathered at my uncle's house on a hot summer day. 

The grill is churning out hot dogs and hamburgers, and the laughter is pealing out and lifting up to heaven, like praise, prayer, and joy.  

Yesterday was a good day.  

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you today and every day from this day.  Amen.  


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