Saturday, June 21, 2008

When You Walk Through a Storm ...

[l to r: Man-cub, Me, feet walking behind the banner: Kris & Alisa, Justin (holding the banner), Maureen and Michael]
"When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high. And don't be afraid of the dark."

It seems that whenever I encounter a difficult time in my life I turn to the wise words of Rogers and Hammerstein. In the musical Carousel, Aunt Nettie sings this to Julie after her beloved dies. Billy Bigelow was not a sainted man. He had many flaws, but one thing was made abundantly clear: He loved his family.
No truer words could be said about the father of my nephews. He was not perfect. He made errors. He loved, admired and bragged about his boys whenever given the opportunity. They are fabulous young men. My sister's influence is ever present. I adore them as if they were my own children. Funny. Quirky. Intelligent. Awesome.
"At the end of the storm is a golden sky. And the sweet silver song of a lark."
I have to remind myself of those words from time to time. It's fleeting, but necessary. I'm a cock-eyed optimist at times. I talk myself into feeling positive and seeing the bright side. I believe that in the darkest hour we can find guidance; light. Sometimes it comes to us out of the blue. Oft times it's the purity of a child's wisdom that lightens a heavy load.
Man-cub and I were discussing the shock and anguish accompanying my brother-in-law's passing. I asked him, "are you okay? I know it's all a shock, but do you have questions? Is anything confusing to you about what happens when someone dies?"
His response surprised me. "I know my uncle is gone forever. I'm sad. I hope the guys recover from it. But Uncle J. loved us. So, I remember that and feel better."
I know throughout all of this his concern was about his cousins. Man-cub remembers when my father died. He was only 7 years old. His recollection is probably that of sadness, but moreso, the celebration of Grandpa's life that followed.
Perhaps my family is odd, but we don't sit in a darkened room and wallow. Yes, we cry; often sob. Yes, we wish for a different outcome. Yes, we take time to get angry that loved ones have to die. However, our focus is put on the good qualities, the joy brought to us by the person who moved on beyond the borders of this Earthly world.
The day of my father's wake was taxing. The smalltown funeral home wasn't equipped to host a large number of people in mourning. There wasn't a room where we could escape, even for a moment. This is where a funny tale about my recently deceased brother-in-law comes into play. John's contribution in many facets of life was being the supplier of food. Never was there a family gathering where not enough food was available. Abundance didn't even touch it. I think making food was his therapy of sorts.
So, there we are on an April evening seeking out refuge from grieving. John to the rescue. He'd pulled his truck into the parking lot, opened the tailgate and voila! Dinner on the fly. He'd packed a couple of coolers with food and beverage. Chips, sandwich fixins, cola, beer, water.

Initially this situation raised eyebrows, but it turned out to be the best thing ever. We all needed a break at one time or another and we found it in the back of John's truck.

Later that evening, another brother-in-law arranged for us to have the local
Pizza Hut to ourselves. We ate, drank and were merry. Our father would have
never desired us to divide and cry alone. He loved having all of his children
together. Dad enjoyed hearing all of us yammering away while shoveling food into
our trough like mouths. I'm certain he was looking down upon us that night
grinning ear to ear. The sight of us rejoicing in his LIFE surely pleased him.

At his (John's) wake service, we all, at one point or another, turned and asked, "who's in charge of the tailgate?" Sure, for someone who didn't understand the past we would have appeared callous and heartless, but it was a fond memory that broke through the mass amount of tears and brought all of us a smirk and a near hearty giggle. John was often irreverent, but there were times as that which I described that turned out to be ideally what we needed.

I will have many moments where I'm feeling morose over the next days, weeks, months. I turn my focus on my nephews and the intensity of their loss. My grieving won't be pushed aside, but it won't take precedence over that of two young men I love dearly.

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