I was attempting to drag myself into a state of wakefulness Wednesday morning, contemplating whether I would be tackling the day or if, as has been the case lately, the day would tackle me. The bed was warm, the house was cold due to the drastic change in the weather . . . again . . . and I’d already hit the snooze button on my phone twice. And the third time was looking like a distinct possibility. That’s when I heard it, sneaking into that space that exists between asleep and awake. Rain.
Rain . . .
But it didn’t bother me. It wasn’t a violent downpour accompanied by flashes of lightning and thunder that would shake the house and send Bud Dog into hiding. It was just a gentle shower with water dripping from the eaves of the house, dancing on the sidewalk and the asphalt of the driveway. It was the kind of rain that whispers of staying in bed and snuggling under the covers. Of hitting the stop button instead of snooze and then ignoring the passage of time . . . and the pile of obligations and responsibilities that await you.
It was a moment of peace, even if there was an internal wrestling match in progress.
We all need those moments—now more than ever. And most of us manage to find them. It may be a special place or a memory to which you return. It may be a good book or a cup of coffee enjoyed in silence. Or it may be a person. Someone with whom you are able to abandon all that makes you anxious or nervous or stressed . . . someone who allows you to simply be and to enjoy the good things that negative thoughts and emotions often hold hostage.
But what happens when that someone is no longer there? When Life or Death takes them from you and that avenue to peace no longer exists? How ironic is it that the one person you need to help you deal with the stress of their absence is the one person whose absence is causing the stress?
There are no easy answers to that first question, and sometimes it seems as if there are no answers at all. No matter what some folks may tell you, special people truly are indispensable and irreplaceable. You can’t just go and find a new best friend you’d trust with all your secrets. You can’t just go and find another spouse or significant other that you’d literally trust with your life. Relationships such as those are built over time, forged by the trials and tribulations of Life.
So I’ll ask my question again—and then I’ll add another question to it. What happens when that someone is no longer there? I can’t tell you what you should do in that situation, because each person’s approach is going to be different based upon the relationship they lost and their own personalities. But I can tell you what not to do. Don’t sit and wait for the world to beat a path to your doorstep. You’ll be waiting a very long time. Don’t sit and wallow in self-pity. It accomplishes nothing other than making an undesirable situation even worse. And don’t expect people to just magically know how much you’re hurting. You’ll find yourself harshly judging them for situations they don’t even realize exist.
My second question comes from “The Girl in the Mask”, an episode of the television series Bones that I happened to be watching via On Demand one night while cooking (and yes, I do cook . . . sometimes . . .). A young man had come to the U.S. hoping to find his sister who had vanished. In the course of their investigation, Dr. Brennan (aka Bones) asked him, “Is it worth it, to have your happiness so contingent upon another human being?” It was a logical question coming from someone whose view of the world is rarely, if ever, influenced by emotion, addressed to a man who was obviously distraught over the loss of someone dear to him. His response? “If I would risk my life for Sachi, why would I not risk my happiness?”
That response requires me to state the obvious. If there were no valleys there could be no mountains. If there was no sorrow we might never appreciate the joy that can be ours. And if there are no risks, can there truly be rewards? That, my friends, is why we freely choose to invest so heavily in the love and security of another person, why we willingly accept the risk of their permanent absence.
Because the rewards are immeasurable.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.