Thursday, July 9, 2009

from the archives: losing parents - all grown up, but newly alone

More reflections on grief - a bit of a theme last year.

It all came back to me the other day.

We arrived at church to discover our minister wasn't there. His mother had died the night before. Only 3 months ago, almost to the day, we were rung at 9.30 with the news that Steve's father had died. It's impossible to forget the night we went to say goodbye.

It doesn't matter if you're all grown up, losing a parent is a terribly sad experience. It's easy to underestimate the significance of losing parents as an adult.

There's the normal sorrow of loss and grief. The empty chair he always sat in. The renewed pain when you see something she created, or planted, or loved. The mornings you wake up and remember, shockingly, again, what you have lost.

But when a parent dies, you lose more than the person you love.

You're losing your childhood. Someone who can answer the question, "What was I like when I was 5 years old?" Someone who remembers your grandma's house. Someone who loves you in the irrational, doting way of a parent, who embarrasses you by boasting of your accomplishments, and who still thinks you are beautiful, wrinkles and all.

You're losing a generation of memories and insights. What was it like when your parents were young? What did it feel like to live through World War II? The way clothes look after they've been through a mangle. Bottles of milk beside the front door, waiting for the milk van. The horse-drawn dunny cart.

You're losing a wealth of wisdom. How do you make Anzacs the traditional way? Pancakes with soured milk? Lancashire Hotpot? How do you change the washer on a tap? What did your mum do when her babies wouldn't sleep? Did she ever worry you wouldn't turn out ok?

You're losing your children's grandparents. Someone who can tell them stories about what you were like as a child. Someone your children can turn to as teenagers, when you just don't get it. Someone who won't have to pretend to be fascinated when you talk endlessly about your child's first steps.

I'm not sure you really grow up until you lose both your parents.

It's not just parents you're losing, but someone older than you, someone ultimately responsible, someone you can depend on. A father who will be there the day you run out of money. A mother who will come and stay when you've just had a baby, and are trying to juggle 3 older children, a home, and mastitis.

You stand on the precipice of a terrifying independence.

There are all kinds of ways to lose parents. We may move far away, so that phonecalls are rare, and regular visits out of the question. We may lose parents to Alzheimer's or cancer, and have to watch them slowly drift away, body and mind. Our relationship with them may be damaged, seemingly beyond repair. Maybe they're still alive, and we've been living without them for a long time.

When we lose our parents, there is one comfort: God has not left us as orphans. He will always be our Father.

Image is from stock.xchg



Julie said...

You have such a wonderful way of describing in words what I feel in my heart. Thank you for this post. I cried as I read it, not because I have lost my parents but because of the thought of losing them and all they mean to me. You caused me to think a little bit about what life will be like without them and that is something that I've never done before. I think it's good for me to reflect on this before it actually happens. It makes me appreciate my parents all the more and treasure the time that I have left with them.
Thank you.

Jean said...

Thank you, Julie.