“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
This quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin (and misattributed to Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli, among others) came home to me in a special way three weeks ago.
My vibrant, fun, spontaneous, loving Latina sister-in-law died suddenly at 51 years of age, two weeks after receiving the great news that she was cancer free.
My brother, who lost his wife of 18 years, and our family have not yet fully come to grips with the tragedy, the reality for which we were ill prepared.
But over these days in which we sought ways to reach out to my brother, her sister, mother and father, to help them with all of the many details that befall loved ones at their most pain-wracked, vulnerable time, I’ve thought that, unlike taxes, there is only so much we can prepare, even if we know death is near, and almost none if it comes without warning.
In working through those tasks – preparing for that final farewell found in the wake, the celebration of the Mass of the Resurrection, the committal prayers and the sharing of a meal with family and friends – we all pitched in to not only help my brother, but somehow reach beyond death to Yolanda, to honor her with our time and our presence, and thereby feel some level of control in a situation – her death – that was completely out of our control.
That sense of helplessness for many of us who lead too busy lives gives pause. Death, and all of the fear and pain it brings, ultimately is clarifying, placing in perspective and building an understanding of that which is secondary – our work lives and careers, financial concerns, petty differences with family, friends and coworkers, household projects, the overscheduling of which most of us are guilty.
We’re reminded of those things that are the greatest gifts in our lives – family and the support it brings, close friends and being there for each other, and the eternal relationship with share with God, the source of all that endures and truly life giving.
Franciscan Media has a number of resources to help you, your family and your parish community deal in a healthy way with grief. Coping With Loss: Praying Your Way to Acceptance (St. Anthony Messenger Press Books, 2009), by the late-Carol Luebering, offers suggestions for prayer during the seasons of grief: denial, sorrow, anger, sadness, guilt, depression and, hopefully, acceptance.
In a St. Anthony Messenger magazine article, “Living Beyond Grief,” Gloria Givens provides a moving account of how nothing can prepare you for the loss of a spouse. But, as she describes, with some help you can learn how to work through the grief and start living again.
Dolores Leckey, mother of four, grandmother and former executive director of the Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women and Youth of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, provides a moving and personal narrative in Grieving With Grace: A Woman’s Perspective (St. Anthony Messenger Press Books, 2008). In it she focuses on the loss of her spouse which leads us to understand that “in the midst of survival, we sense the challenge to find ways to get in touch with the richness of life here and now and to welcome the next chapters of a life newly unfolding. Therein lie the seeds of resurrection.”
What are those times you had to deal with loss, and how did you cope?
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(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)