I want to watch Law and Order.
I want to eat coconut almond joy ice cream.
I want to wash every sheet and towel in the house.
I want to take a nap.
I WANT TO NUMB IT.
I don’t want to sit with the sadness of saying goodbye to the summer.
I don’t want to sit with the sadness of saying goodbye to my husband and children and their loves.
I don’t want to sit with the sadness of saying goodbye to the squeals of laughter from my most adorable grandson.
I don’t want to sit with the sadness of saying goodbye to the fireworks, the sandy flip flops, the bike rides and eating pizza without guilt.
BUT I WILL.
I won’t watch Law and Order at least until later tonight.
I won’t eat ice cream until tomorrow.
I might wash some of the sheets and towels, but not all of them.
I will stay awake, sit on the porch and make friends with this place I find myself in. I am sad and that’s EXACTLY where I am supposed to be.
I am also strangely okay.
Front porch, summer’s end, here I come.
“A time to laugh. A time to weep.” (Solomon)
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. (Dr. Seuss)
“There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (King Solomon)
In my kids’ high school yearbooks, seniors usually put a quote at the bottom of their picture, words that represented them and they wanted to pass along to their fellow classmates. I loved reading each one of my kids’ friends quotes because they gave me a little glimpse into what mattered to them, their final statement as they pushed on to the next world of college. They varied from very serious and mind-stretching to completely silly and slightly inappropriate (here’s a secret…those were my favorite).
The above quote from Dr. Seuss was under at least a few of the pictures every single year. For a long time, I loved it. It shouted the very important ideas of hope and thankfulness. It helped people look “on the bright side” of life. It granted a new perspective when sadness and pain came knocking. Or so it seemed.
I filled my kids’ scrapbooks with quotes from Dr. Seuss. Many speak words I want to shout from the mountaintops and especially whisper to the souls of my kids.
“Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you.”
“A person’s a person no matter how small.”
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
“And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed! 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!”
Wisdom. Hope. Life.
So why does the “Don’t cry because it’s over…” quote rub me in the wrongest (not sure if that is even a word) way?
I am not good at crying (except at Disney movies and This Is Us episodes). I like to pride myself on being the “strong” one, the “positive one,” the “hope-bringer.” But that pride gets me into lots of trouble. I keep others out, when it would be best to let others in. I put on the “smile” even when I am hurting inside. I push aside any grief (like a good American) that threatens to overwhelm me instead of working through it. I don’t like the negative emotion of sadness. JOY is my middle name after all (no pressure there WINKY FACE).
(and it’s a BIG BUT this time)
I’m discovering ever so slowly that:
- CRYING releases toxins and reduces stress. Tears feel cleansing and authentic.
- SADNESS speaks to the value of what’s been lost, giving honor to the good in our lives. (I joke often that if my kids or Allen don’t seriously fall apart for at least a year or two or three after I’m gone, I will be pretty upset about it! What does that say about me if they only “smile because it happened?”)
- GRIEF brings empathy for the pain of others (our universal human language) and creates a healthy path towards true, lasting restoration.
It’s okay to be sad just as much as it’s okay to feel joy.
It’s okay to cry just as much as it’s okay to smile.
It’s okay to grieve just as much as it’s okay to celebrate.
It’s why funerals and memorial services feel so bizarre sometimes. One moment, sadness, crying and grief are palpable, threatening to overwhelm. A split-second later, laughter and the celebration of the one who has been lost bursts on the scene. What feels so dichotomous actually pronounces the permission to live fully in BOTH AND, not either or, the integrated, beautiful experience of our human space and my human heart in it’s entirety.
BUT (hopefully a smaller BUT this time)…
I say to myself, “Sure, it’s true for the large, visible-to-everyone, life-changing human experiences. But what about the very ordinary parts of my life and my day? What then?”
I cry when my baby takes his first step away from me, but I smile that he is reaching his normal milestones.
I cry when my husband takes a job with a very long commute, but I smile that all his hard work is paying off.
I cry when my friend tells me she’s moving, but I smile because she just landed her dream job.
I cry when my daughter buys her own place, but I smile knowing she’s spreading her wings just like I taught her.
All these run-of-the-mill life happenings echo the same voice as those that are profound. What happens in the momentous also takes place in the mundane. I have freedom to embrace BOTH crying AND smiling, in all that this adventure sends my way.
I do love Dr. Seuss. It’s his birthday when I am writing this (March 2nd)! So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Theodore Giesel. You’ve brought much happiness into my life and the lives of my children. For that, I am truly grateful!
BUT (and this one is a middlish BUT)…
I wish your quote said this instead:
“Cry because it’s over…AND…smile because it happened.”
King Solomon was right.
P.S. When I told my daughter (one of the seniors in the picture on this post) what I was writing about and why, the basic gist of her response was this, “Oh Mom, I think you’re missing his point. I don’t think he’s saying “don’t cry.” I think he’s saying remember to smile.” So there you have it. If you also believe I am clueless about Dr. Seuss’ original intention, you are in good company! Point taken.
P.P.S. If you’ve read this far and want to comment here or on social media or in an email, I’m asking you this question: can you think of a time where you found yourself laughing and crying at the same time? What was it?
“True love between two human beings puts you more in touch with your deepest self. The pain you experience from the death of the person you love calls you to a deeper knowledge of God’s love. The God who lives in you can speak to the God in the other. This is deep speaking to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God, who embraces both of you.” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)
Grief. Most of us try our very hardest to shy away, or even run away from it. We question what to say when someone is grieving. We are unsure how often or even if to “bring it up” once life supposedly goes “back to normal.” We don’t know what to expect from ourselves or what the other might need from us. Should we come close or give the other space? It can be a very confusing time for everyone. And truthfully, if I can speak candidly about myself, I don’t like to be in pain or be with others in pain. It’s just downright uncomfortable.
The past couple of years have been filled with family and friends who are grieving. And like most things in my life, I am not an avoider. I want to throw myself headlong into the process, engage in it, learn from it, deal with it. After all, it’s fairly new to me and I’ve heard that it’s horrible, sacred, beautiful intimate, and gut-wrenching all at the same time.
I lost my own sister-in-law, Denise Maret, just under a year ago, after a year-and-a-half long battle with colon cancer. My brother and 19-year-old niece are left to raise my nine- and ten-year-old nephew and niece, along with the help of their grandparents.
My friend lost her precious brother to suicide. He has left behind a wife, three children and two grandchildren and her heart is broken.
Our friend and former babysitter lost both her dad and her husband to cancer during her two pregnancies and she is left to raise two young children alone.
I reconnected with someone on Facebook who lost her only son to teen suicide. This was the second time she lost a child, the other, a daughter, in early infancy.
A friend from church battled kidney cancer for many years. His wife faithfully cared for him, only to lose him. He missed his step-daughter’s wedding by only three short months.
One of my best friends from high school lost both of her daughters, her only children, in a tragic car accident on Good Friday. They were only 19 and 20 years old, absolutely stunning girls, one only 10 days away from her college graduation.
You have your own stories. So much horror. So much sadness. Grief multiplied.
This is probably where you want to click off, log out, go find puppy videos on the internet. Me too. At times. But not today. Come with me. Lean in. Learn along side of me. Today, we will catch just a glimpse inside the world of my friend, Annie, who lost her baby brother to suicide at just 51 years old. I promise you that it’s not all horrible.
When she first shared this journal entry with me, my heart was filled with horror, joy, sorrow, connection, injustice and comfort. Yes. All of those things. Loss feels raw and sad and terrible and wrong, but also sacred and beautiful and precious. Entering in to the pain allows our hearts to be touched with a deeper knowing and beauty that we will miss if we click away. I ask that you would read on.
Annie’s Journal Entry on 6/17/2017. Four months later.
Steven is gone. He is gone. He is gone from me. How can this be? How can he be gone, just gone? I don’t feel disconnected from him . . . but definitely disengaged. He is not here to hope, or dream, or plan for a future together. All those things are gone.
My connection to a future here that includes him is gone, and nothing will take its place. It is an empty space…and it will stay empty. It is a space that holds his absence and my missing him. My own future will always hold this empty space. I am suffering. I will suffer, but I will not be destroyed or left desolate by an empty space.
This empty space where Steven is missing is a sacred place. I would rather have this sacred, empty space than no space at all. Our love and connection to each other created a space for our future together. If there had been no love and connection, there would be no space – – and I am thankful for it, for our empty space . . . for my empty space.
I am thankful for all the other spaces, the other spaces that are full – – beautiful, cherished spaces filled to bursting with love and life and memories. Memories of the two of us. All the precious moments we had together and apart-but-connected. All the treasured memories we had together with others. Those spaces are filled up and will stay full . . .
nothing will change that.
I don’t have you with me now my Steve, my beloved Steven, but I am forever grateful for you – my one time little brother, my forever friend.