I took a friend to breakfast this weekend, who lost his wife on Friday to cancer. He was out in the world of people who did not know his pain. It was still raw.
We sat and had breakfast and the hard part was, it was still new to him. People laughed. They joked. They smiled. How dare they?
Here was someone who lost his loving wife barely 48 hours before. How dare they get on with their lives when he was still mourning?
I pointed to a few people. THAT guy has a daughter who is in a wheelchair, unable to speak. He’s telling a joke.
That woman over there? She lost her husband to Alzheimers and he did not know who she was for the past five years. She’s asking for an extra schmear of cream cheese.
That ten-year old? She empties her brothers colostomy bag several times a day and tries to explain to her classmates what that is like, but they don’t get it.
The old guy with the VFW hat? He tried to save his friend in battle, only to see him bleed out. He has never forgotten it and he lives that experience every day.
Life sucks on so many levels. They say, if we put all of our troubles in a sack and picked one out, we would wish for our own troubles, no one elses.
Fact is, we did not have that conversation. But if we had, we’d get a glimpse into other people’s lives. Thankful for what we had, anger at what we have lost.
I have been there. I was the guy, 24 hours after I lost my daughter, someone took me to breakfast. Among the living. I was in a different place, My emotions were exposed. How could they live when my daughter was dead,
Life is not kind. It gives us so much, and takes away even more.
So, for the past 16 years-and for my friend 24 hours-how do we go on?
Time heals all wounds is a nice phrase, but it’s just words.
Faith? Many people lose faith. What kind of God would take those we loved?
I don’t know the answer. I have all the questions though.
I just know that anyone reading this column has experienced pain. How do we go on, I ask again.
We maybe believe in friends who come to our rescue. Or family who tell a few jokes but give us a hug. Or the people who show up at a memorial service just because they need to be there. For their own or for the mourning.
After 16 years, I laugh. I have joy. I miss my daughter. Much like my friend misses his wife.
For me, I have the years. For him, he still has hours. And the next 72 hours, 72 days, 7 months, he will mourn. And I stand by him. I can tell you, I have been able to laugh again.
Hopefully, he will. And today, over a bagel and a schmear, he cracked a smile.
It’s a step. We never leave those we love behind. But we carry them in the days ahead and pray-and hope- we find joy in our lives again.
It worked for me and I hope it works for him.
I know it will.