I've had a love-hate relationship with summer for a long time. The warm weather makes it pleasant to be outside and I feel much more energetic in the expanded daylight hours. But this season also marks the death anniversaries of three people I love, so it’s difficult to face. Add to that all the uncertainty about Covid-19, and it's easy to feel stuck in sadness and loss.
Three People I Miss
Today, July 24th is the anniversary of my son David’s sudden death in an accident. Even after 9 years, there is something surreal in writing this. I miss him profoundly, and wonder what he might have been thinking and doing if he had lived past age 26. I especially wonder how he'd be handling the pandemic. I know July is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month, but for me it’s every month.
July 27th is the anniversary of my sister Debbie’s death. She died 20 years ago after a long and valiant battle with cancer. I miss her deeply, even though I wouldn’t want her to suffer one moment longer than she did. I still long for the presence of my childhood partner-in-crime and my closest family connection.
August 8th is the anniversary of my father’s death; my Daddy. He died of cancer long ago – when I was only 22. His illness and death shocked me out of adolescence and into the world of grief. And again, I miss him terribly, even after the passage of decades.
Choosing A Different Perspective
I continue to weave these three lives and deaths into the tapestry of my own story; this is what I call inhabiting reality. The missing and longing never go away, but the tapestry becomes richer and more vibrant as the grief threads become inextricably intertwined with hope, love, and joy. I choose to be grateful for these very special family members, for this is the best way I can think of to honor them.
I have learned so much from each of my loved ones and I continue to be inspired by them even after years of separation. The one trait that all three had in common was fun-loving exuberance – a lust for life.
Hope, Love, and Joy
David taught me the value of fresh starts. No matter how challenging a particular day might have been, he always woke up the next day eager to begin anew. His ready smile and hearty laugh made you want to join the party! He embodied Hope.
Debbie taught me how sweetness and strength can come together in one person. She accepted everyone – including herself – exactly as they were, and made you feel celebrated. I never heard her complain about anything, and she was always ready to plan the next get-together. She embodied Love.
Daddy taught me to do everything with gusto. He had a passionate work ethic, cared deeply about others, and loved to have fun with friends and family. I remember him inviting nearly the entire floor of my college dorm out for Parents’ Weekend dinner. He embodied Joy.
Focusing on Life in the Midst of Grief
Each year at this time I ask myself how I might observe these painful anniversaries. The best way I know to honor David, Debbie, and Daddy, and their ongoing inspiration, is to personally exemplify the hope, love, and joy with which they lived.
According to my tradition, I will light Yahrzeit candles and attend virtual services, reciting the Kaddish prayer I know so well.
And I will dedicate myself to living the rest of my life with hopeful, loving, and joyful exuberance. Thank you, David, Debbie, and Daddy for being such incredible role models!
What's Your Take?
How do you observe death anniversaries, especially this year? What do you think about as they approach -- what has helped you through these times and what hasn't? Write me an email and let me know!
Wishing you peace and healing,
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Essays on Grief Resilience