Grief...Then Grace

Sunday, December 06, 2009

My beloved brother Steven passed away over 23 years ago...just shy of his 30th birthday. My heart still misses him. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that the holidays, when family come together to celebrate, are the most difficult when one loved is no longer there.

My daughter has fond memories of dancing with her uncle to Elvis singing: "It's Christmastime pretty baby...and Santa Clause has come to town..." The whole family would be dancing around the kitchen, trying to out-do each others Elvis impersonation and having way more fun than earlier in the day when we opened gifts. The turkey, mashed potatoes, oyster stuffing and cranberries arrive to the table while The King and his sad wannabes serenade them. We never had a mishap...no spilled gravy...no dropped dish. That always amazed me...what with all the gyrating going on.

We quite literally laughed and danced our way to our laden Christmas table. It left an impression on my daughter, who was almost four that last Christmas we had with Steven. When it came time to go around the table and give thanks for something or someone in our lives that year...she said: "My Uncle Steve!"

I had a moment yesterday while reading a novel by Dean Koontz called "Odd Hours" when I could not catch my breath. He captured perfectly what I have felt over the years without my brother.

"Grief can destroy you - or focus you. You can decide a relationship is all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. Or you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn't allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it."

"But when it's over and you're alone, you begin to see that it wasn't just a movie and a dinner together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it."

"The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can't get off your knees for a long time, you're driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss."

"And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life."

My brother brought so much joy to the lives he touched that the only real, tangible way I have of showing what he meant to me is living my life with laughter and love and gratitude. To share myself unreservedly with my loved ones and those friends who have become like family, and to gift those who only momentarily come into my life with respect and grace.

In this way I honor not only his memory...but all those moments, much like this one, when I reach out to others through the written word and share a piece of myself with you, those moments that seem ordinary and mundane become filled with a grace.

So, it is with gratitude for all that proceeded my brother's journey here, as well as all that has come after, that I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I am sending your quote to my own younger brother who recently lost a friend of over 30 years time. You also made me realize that I have much to be thankful for in still having my brother. Thank you for your wise perspective on Christmas. I had been letting my concern over the changes in my own celebration steal my joy and forgetting to count my many blessings.
    4164 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/16/2009 8:52:35 AM
    How blessed you were to have Steven, and how thankful I am that you shared the "Odd Hours" exerpt. Definately a healthier and more loving way to deal with losses.
    4173 days ago
    What a wonderful lesson..thank you for teaching me!

    Hold on to that love.
    4173 days ago
    I, too, am sad because my baby brother now has Alzheimer's and no longer knows who I am..He is 8 years younger than me and has had it for about 5 years. May God comfort you and bless you today... emoticon
    4174 days ago
    How true! Thank you for sharing such an inspiring thought.
    4174 days ago
    So, that is the secret to why we met Christine......because like you, despite the same sense of loss, I have chosen "laughter, love and gratitude" over despair. Laughter, love and gratitude...words to live by.

    How I wish I had met Steven.
    4174 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/6/2009 8:18:26 PM
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