Remember

Grief is stealthy.  Grief lies dormant, where it can go unnoticed, quiet and ignored.  Grief sleeps within me, deep in my bones, quietly waiting to overcome me when I least expect it.  There are times when a smell takes me back to a moment, before my grief.  Other times, there is a word, or a book, that causes emotion to swell up within me.  On days like today, I wonder if my cells remember – does my body have a memory apart from my conscious thoughts?

On this day, in 2014, I visited Father Bob in the hospital.  Somehow, I had convinced myself that despite the cancer that he had battled, he would continue to overcome – to heal.  But August 28, 2014, was different.  Father Bob told me that he did not have much time left.


When faced with news that I cannot process, comprehend, or control, my response is to act.  I immediately went to my office and started a Facebook group to update friends, family, and students about Father Bob’s condition.  I also decided that I absolutely had to get a scholarship fund or some sort of award established before Father Bob passed away.

I knew the impact he had on my life, and I needed him to know, to really know, how much he meant to so many. 

I thought that I had time.  I thought that I could do it.  I thought that through a sheer act of will, I could convince death to wait until I was ready to say goodbye.
On August 29, I returned to the hospital to see Father Bob ring a bell.  When cancer patients receive their last treatment, the tradition is to ring the bell so that staff, family, and strangers can cheer and celebrate the end of the battle.  For most, this ringing is a joyous time – a time of victory – defying death for a little longer.  Father Bob rang that bell because he would no longer receive treatments.  Yet, his healing would occur in a different way – a way that was as unique as him – a healing that would take him far away from all of us that love him.

When I talked to him, I tried to be sure that he knew how much he was loved.  I wanted him to know what his life meant to everyone, especially to me.  I wanted him to know that we would remember.   I wanted to hear his words of wisdom and cling to the memories of the moment.  Yet, now, when I look back, I remember little of what we said.  Even though I don’t remember the words spoken, I remember the feelings.  I remember the mixture of sadness, hope, and pain.  I remember the helplessness.  I remember the fear – fear of loss, fear of the unknown, fear of a final goodbye. 

When I went home that night, I wondered why I had not written down more of his wise stories.  Why didn’t I keep the napkins and scraps of paper where he wrote philosophical quotes for me to ponder?  Why didn’t I listen more and cherish the time that we spent together?  How did I treat any of those moments – moments that were scarce, precious, and so limited - with such reckless abandon? 

Now, three years later, I am surprised by the deep grief that has exploded within me.  This grief refuses to be silent.  It refuses to remain dormant, quiet and ignored. 


And perhaps that is the point.  We are not meant to forget.  How can a life that was so large not leave a lasting impression upon my heart?  Even in the sadness, I can say, “I remember.  You are not forgotten.”  

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