As most of us were surrounded by turkeys, pies and family, four of my friends lost loved ones in recent days. There's nothing witty or catchy to be written about that. Learning to laugh at life is great, but sometimes laughter doesn't work. Sometimes, just to let people know you hurt for them while they are hurting is all you can do.
"I don't know what to say to them," someone once said to me.
It's not in what you say. There is nothing to say. All you can do is be there. It's not about saying things when people are grieving. It's all about listening.
The night after my mother was buried I decided to return to her grave so I could be with her. My best friend drove me and sat patiently in the car while I sat on the cold grass, trying to feel her presence. She wasn't there.
My mind took that as a horrible sign that she was totally gone from me. I cried and my friend let me. She didn't say a word. Hours later, something struck us as amusing and I laughed.
"You sound like your mother," she said.
That's when I began to learn that we won't find our loved ones at their graves. We can pay homage to them there but that's not where they live. They live in us and their existence in our lives will become startlingly vivid to us at some of the most unexpected moments.
Once, on some random trip to some random Little League practice, I looked at my hands on the steering wheel and realized they looked like my mother's hands. One of my children, who never met my mother, will laugh with joy and I'll hear my mother's laughter. I'll hear the soft Southern drawl of one of my nieces and swear I'm hearing my mother's voice. You never forget those you've loved. It was almost 43 years ago that my mother died, so I'm proof against that fear.
In time, however, memories will provide far more comfort than they do pain. Life goes on might sound heartless, but it's true. The one thing that is certain from the moment we are born is that we will also die. And when we die, we will cause those who love us to mourn. However, in our lives we also give those we love countless gifts pieces of ourselves to treasure long after we are gone. And they, in turn, will pass those pieces down to the loved ones we'll never meet.
And, that is why even though the world has become a troubled, crowded place, we have children to guarantee a piece of ourselves and our ancestors still lives and might make this world a better place. All of us want to be remembered, but none of us want to be mourned. An English poet, David Harkins, summed up what we the living hope for those we leave behind in "Remember Me."
"Do not shed tears when I have gone/but smile instead because I have lived./ Do not shut your eyes and pray to God that I'll come back/but open your eyes and see all that I have left behind./ I know your heart will be empty because you cannot see me/but still I want you to be full of the love we shared./ You can turn your back on tomorrow and live only for yesterday/ or you can be happy for tomorrow because of what happened/between us yesterday./ You can remember me and grieve that I have gone/or you can cherish my memory and let it live on."
Step by step, when we lose someone we love, we move closer to those words. But, just as living takes time so does grieving. Our role, when those who are hurting are our friends, is to be here for them just as they will be here for us and ours someday.
"Home Front" by Terry Murry is published every other Sunday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.