The following writing was created by Mrs. Roberta Renaldo. She was asked to speak to grievers at our annual Night of Light remembrance service a few days ago. This is her amazing essay:
Good evening everyone…I want to thank Dana and her committee for allowing me to be a part of this special evening. It means so much to me to be here with all of you as we come together to remember and honor those we love. I did say “remember”…. for you see there are those, including some very prominent “experts”, who tell us that we shouldn’t spend too much time remembering…it’s painful and slows the process of healing…and prevents us from moving on; ”the past is gone, they say…focus on the future”
As well intended as this advice might be, I say it is not only good, but vital to remember; and I think memories are a wonderful gift
Like me, you are here tonight because you have someone; perhaps several people who you are missing and who you remember on a day to day…perhaps, hour by hour basis. And I hope you don’t regret one moment of those memories. Do you think it was by accident that we were put together with those we love? NO!
We had much to learn from them and they had much to learn from us; so much we gave to them and so much they gave to us! The purpose of this life on earth is to learn and to love. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying says that death is the graduation ceremony while living is just a long course in learning and preparing us for the next journey. All the experiences we have had both pleasant and maybe sometimes not so pleasant have shaped us into who we are…have taught us….and have made this life what it is. Why would you ever want to forget…disown or negate all that has brought you to this point?
Yes, some say our memories are too painful to remember but I say they are too precious to forget.
So why is the act of remembering so important?
The theoretical side to remembering is, in essence, what textbooks tell us:
Recalling events and conversations is actually one of the ways we mourn. When we remember, we are giving ourselves permission to face our loss and slowly process what has happened to them and to us. One thing I have learned and you have too, I’m sure, is that we don’t “get over the loss” … we learn to live with it. Remembering helps us do just that.
Remembering on nights like tonight helps us to realize that we are together in community; we see that others are experiencing the same kind of sorrow. …look to your right and to your left…behind you and in front of you….while it does not diminish your own grief, you realize that you are not alone in your struggle… indeed, loss comes to all of us.
This leads us to the emotional reasons for remembering…..(much more meaningful and personal than what the textbooks sayJ)
My mother endured a 6 year battle with vascular dementia. My smart beautiful mother who couldn’t tell the front door from back…who worked in a dental office most of her adult life and couldn’t remember what to do with a toothbrush….as heartbroken as we were by her loss of short term memory, we began to realize that what did stay with her was incredible…..recollections of her mother and grandmother….a childhood friend, a beloved pet, those memories remained strong; she would go to them again and again because they made her feel whole…they never left her…in the end they grounded her and were one of the only joys left for her … memories are like that; in the deepest part of us, our memories tell the story of who we are…..and connect us in an ever- lasting web with those we have loved.
When we remember our loved ones, we honor them… we are saying that their lives mattered…not only what they accomplished although that is certainly significant but also what was important to them, what they meant to us, how they lived and how they loved…when we remember them we are allowing them to still be significant and play a part in our daily lives.
So, remembering is a good thing and not something to be avoided and yet along with remembering often comes a sadness and a longing for how it used to be… not surprising..
Do any of you remember the term HOMEOSTASIS from science class…Humans love sameness. We say we want excitement and hate boredom but we get upset when things are different; we feel unbalanced especially when we are left with the drastic changes illness, accidents and death bring…
things are all messed up; and while life goes on, you know it will never be the same again….it hurts…hurts so badly that you think the pain will never pass
But it does…it always does; sometimes because of your efforts and sometimes in spite of you but time passes, and eventually doesn’t life hurt quite so much
Experts say it takes a good three years to return to homeostasis! And I can attest to that….the first year of loss is awful; and the second year is not much better! For most of us, the 3rd year is when we begin to feel more stable……it’s not that we like it any better but we start to get used to a new normal. So hold on and know that tomorrow will come and with each tomorrow it will be a little better; not the same but more familiar.
One of my favorite books is How To Survive The Loss of a Love…it tells us that recovery from loss is not a straight line…it is up and down…zigzaggy…you think you’re doing pretty good and then you get crushed by a song…a smell…a photograph and you sink a bit, but you also rise again. These highs and lows are very normal. Expect good days and rough days. Embrace them; for it is all part of the healing process.
So, how do we deal with these holidays?
Recognize that you will be sad and it is going to be tough. We miss the ones we love! If you feel like going to bed on the night before Thanksgiving and not getting up until Jan. 10 when all the decorations are put away, I get it! But I’m going to ask you not to do that. I’m going to ask you to try to push through ….why? because this is your journey…your days on this earth aren’t over yet…you have more to do…you have more to learn you have more to give…you need to keep going. Honor your time.
No self- destructive behaviors please! Never really helps…usually just creates more problems! You’ll hate yourself in the morning.
So here are some healthy things you can do…no magic here……just some proven suggestions:
Be gentle with yourself….stay in bed a little longer…or go to bed a little earlier…stay up late and watch the movie….stay in cozy pjs…have another cup of coffee or hot chocolate…take a warm bath…read that book you always wanted to…..do something for you…give yourself a gift! you have been through a lot; you deserve a break.
Don’t isolate yourself but fond some quiet time for yourself, too. Both helps!
Do what you can and don’t feel guilty about what you do or don’t do. “What will people say?” or “ We always did it this way?” Well, for this year it can be different. And remember that It’s ok to laugh…its ok to smile……its ok to cry…its ok!
Play the music even if you cry a lot…try to sing along, even if it’s only for a few minutes and in a whisper
If you feel like it, bake the cookies….maybe not 10 kinds but bake one…your loved ones favorite….do it in honor of them or do it the way they used to do it! And if you can’t bear it…try a new recipe altogether or buy the darn cookies…….Its ok.
Do it for the kids…if that gets you through- great! Do it for somebody! Anybody!
Acknowledge your loved ones absence; don’t ignore it or pretend it didn’t happen…set a place at the table….give a gift in memory of your loved one……put a candle in the window for them….hang their favorite ornament on the tree…include them in the prayer before meals….do something in honor of them….maybe start a new tradition in their memory.
Pray for them…..Talk to them…they will hear you….and I am sure that they see and hear us! Look for co incidences……no promises but you may be very surprised by the “little things” that happen…our loved one have ways of letting us know they are still with us.
Go for a walk…even a short one…mild exercise and fresh air helps! Wear something of theirs or something that they gave you…it’s another way to keep them close….
get your rest…..talk to someone if you have to….talk to someone if you NEED to and remember that the day will pass ….it always does and before you know it you will have shown the courage you thought you would never have!
Lastly, don’t let go of your faith or your spirituality. I know you and God might not be on the best of terms these days; you might be angry or have had enough. I’ve been there…. those of you who know me know my faith is very important to me and it is strong but over the past decade or so it has been sorely tested. Its ok to be angry for a while, God understands and He can take it. Let Him know how you feel; He’ll be there when and if you are ready to talk with Him.
So here are some things I believe:
I believe we are all on a journey on this earth….no one stays forever and we know not the day or the hour….
I believe in the end, all that remains and matters is the good we did and the love we showed for one another
I believe in a place called Heaven where our loved ones are safe and well…I believe they see us, hear us, intercede for us. I believe they are happy and they want nothing more than for us to be happy too….. I believe they are waiting for us and after our work and purpose on this Earth is done, I believe we will see them again.
Now you might say really? You really believe this? Yes, I do. There many things I have read and experienced…but I always try to see through the eyes of faith and my faith gives me hope….
Do you remember this story from the bible? The Gospel of John… Jesus was preparing the apostle for His coming death…told them He was going away and they could not come….but He was returning to his Father to prepare a place for them “ In my Father’s house there are many mansions and I am going to prepare a place for you.” He told them HE would come back for them…”so that where I am, you can be too. Have faith in me”. Now comes the best line in the whole story! He says to them, “Would I tell you this is it where not true??”
I don’t believe that he would have. I believe Him.
In conclusion, grief is the price we pay for deep love and even with pain of loss would we have wanted to miss it? I think not. We keep our loved ones alive by the way we live our lives, we honor them and help ourselves by remembering them
I will end with two of my favorite quotes…The first a line from a favorite essay that says,
‘If you can remember me I will be with you always”.
And a quote from Phillipians, “I will thank my God everytime I remember you”.
God bless you all and have a peaceful, loving Christmas