Source: Rudy and Peter Skitterians/Pixabay
“Have a nice day.” Four little words. Usually well intended. Sometimes perfunctory. Mostly an offhanded exchange. Words that prompt you to move on with your life so the person saying them can advance to the next person, the next task, or the next issue. Some might say, “they’re only words.” But right now, these four little words are daggers in my heart. They are a reminder of what I’ve lost. They bring me to my knees. Every. Single. Time.
I’ve experienced loss in my life, but nothing prepared me for the depth of the pain, the emptiness, the hole I experienced when I lost my mom. It was sudden and it occurred 20 years sooner than we would have expected. It literally took my breath away and shook my world in a way I didn’t know possible. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t breathe. It’s still a struggle. I’m trying to heal – to create a new normal. I’m trying to focus on the wonderful times we shared – all the memories. But my grief is raw.
There was nothing remarkable about that day. It was like any other. I spent the morning grading, and was beginning to prepare for my night class, when the phone rang. I answered and heard a familiar voice – upset and rattled. I heard words – unbelievable words. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real. I texted my husband, called my brothers, and quickly drove to her home.
When I rounded the corner, instead of the usual peaceful setting, my eyes took in the random chaos – the haphazard parking of vehicles that had been quickly vacated. Vehicles labeled with the words “Police” and “Medical Examiner”. My heart stopped. With shaking hands, I put the car in park and opened the door. My body was on autopilot. I took two steps up the grassy hill, and noticed a man walking from the front door toward me. “Are you Linda?” he asked. My body shuddered. I began to sob, and he escorted me inside.
Four. Little. Words. People mean well. I believe that. But we are such a hurried society that time isn’t taken to understand body language, to examine a face, to identify an expression. People use the script. They look for an emoji. They try to fast forward. Grief doesn’t work that way. It’s hollow. It’s painful. It’s unpredictable. It comes in waves, and emotions can turn on a dime. “Have a nice day.” I hear the words in my daily life, but I can’t respond. My brain struggles to reconcile the words with what has happened. It feels like the world should stop. But that isn’t how life works.
I sat on the porch this morning with Zoe – our apricot-colored goldendoodle who has unofficially been promoted to full-time therapist. I soaked up the sunshine, enjoyed the gentle breeze, and drank my tea. She sniffed the air, watched the birds, and licked my tears. We spent the better part of an hour snuggling with one another. Her only goal was to make me feel better. Mine was to focus on breathing while remembering my mom and trying to absorb some of the peace of the moment. I am immensely grateful for the time I had with her, for the many memories we shared, and for the way she loved us. She was an amazing mom, a wonderful gran, and a trusted friend. My human self is grieving, but my faithful self believes I will see her again one day. The memories, my faith, and the love and support of family and friends bring me great comfort. Hers was a life well-lived.
When Zoe and I finally decided to begin our day, we walked through the front door and I was greeted by a wonderful memory. I saw the sunlight dancing on the brilliant green leaves on the trees in my backyard and it reminded me of a recent conversation with my mom. I love many things about this home, but I had shared that one of my favorite things is how the sunlight dapples through the leaves and sprinkles a beautiful pattern of light throughout. She was thrilled by the beauty and the simplicity of my disclosure. She loved the fact that something so simple brought me such joy.
To use my brother’s words, Mom got it right. In a hurried world, she understood the point. She loved with her whole heart, she enjoyed the simple things, and she celebrated the moment. Do you? Life is so very short. Take the time. Find the meaning. Get it right.
Copyright Linda Seiford, Ph.D.