The following is a selection from a collection of memories that I am working on that include stories and thoughts of family and life experiences. This one is about my brother in law, Carlton, who has Down Syndrome. I would love to hear what you think.
It is never easy to lose a loved one. There are just so many emotions that come into play when grief is encountered. Everyone handles it in their own way and most importantly–in their own time. I do not think that anyone can say “you need to be past that stage by now” because we are all so different and have a myriad of ways of dealing with loss.
Sometimes there are regrets. Regrets of relationships that did not go quite as well as would have been desired. Time spent away from a loved one that was unnecessary. Words that were said that may have been better left unsaid.
At times it often becomes a time of reflection on the life that one is living. It brings to mind mortality and what our impact on this world will be when we are gone. Have we contributed at all? Have we made one iota of difference by being alive?
It is also a time to remember. Memories of the loved one come streaming back and the good times are highlighted in our minds and perhaps embellished a bit. But that is not a bad thing. It is good to laugh during times of extreme sadness—it is our pressure valve and a great way to honor the loved one.
When Chris’s dad died we went through all of the normal emotions and reactions. We were all very protective of Carlton and tried to make sure that he understood what was going on every step of the way. He was upset that there was no reading of the will. He kept waiting for that and I suspect TV shows played a big part in that expectation. I know he felt cheated. He wanted to hear his name being read that he was to receive a third of the “estate”. Even though we explained time and time again that that was not the way things were set up in normal life he still hung on to the thought that he had been left out of something important.
But the memory that I will carry with me for the rest of my days is when we finally buried the cremains of my beloved father in law. We gathered at the cemetery on a cold and windy day –just the close family- and after the 3 children each put a shovel of dirt in the grave Carlton quipped “Move over, Mom. Here comes Dad.” Now how can that ever be forgotten?