While sitting in church this last Sunday, listening to the Palm Sunday sermon, the significance of this juxtaposition that occurs in so many areas of life struck me. In the Christian faith, this week is a time where the excitement and joy of togetherness and celebration is juxtaposed with the devastation of loss. Conflicting thoughts and feelings are felt at the same time. I am often one to avoid that level of intense feelings. My thoughts centered with this idea of intense feelings caused by a conflicting series of events.

As Noah mentioned in his recording, when we got the call that his Grandfather would be moving into Hospice recently, he immediately asked our children if they would like to accompany him, and then he bought plane tickets to fly to California. This is an action Noah has taken several times. He flew to Miami when Michael and Ashley were in the fatal car accident in 2006. He flew to Miami again to help move his father into in-home Hospice in 2009. He flew to Durham, NC when his mother was moved to Hospice in 2017, the same place where he spent a year as she received her double lung transplant 5 years prior. And when we got the call that Michael was in ICU in January 2018, again he flew to Miami to spend the last month with his brother.

During each of these times, we knew of the heartache that was meeting Noah on the other side of the flight, yet each time I encouraged him to get on the plane and go.  Each time I stayed home with our children, doing my best to keep life moving forward. Each time the lives of others changed dramatically. Each time Noah strengthened relationships as he felt the loss of one.

Life presents such complexity and sad sweetness to show up for loss and at the same time to build stronger connection in other relationships. How can the event of losing a loved one also be a conduit for bringing those left behind together and strengthening the connections they share?

I am aware that it is a total gift that Noah has been able to be there for each of these events. It is not a given that loved ones will come together during these times. Nor is it a given that connection will be made during these times. Just because you are in the same room it does not guarantee that connection will be made. As we learned during our recent workshop in Colorado, connection requires honest safe sharing where participants feel validation and acceptance, and feel heard and understood.

The estate planning work Noah and I are doing helps families have more connection. We are aware that times of loss often bring about a lot of hurt feelings, defensiveness and assumptions which all decrease connection. I encourage you to attend Noah’s presentation on the 26th to hear more about how you can help your family.

I experienced the intense conflicting thoughts and feelings for each of these trips that Noah made. Looking at this last trip to see his Grandfather, I am so grateful he went. The trip was full of sadness but also the strength of coming together with his cousins to share memories and also the gift of being together.

As you are pulled into sadness over loss (it happens to all of us), I encourage you to look for those beautiful moments. For me it was the blue canary by the pool that stayed all day when Ashley passed. It was the “life party” Noah’s father insisted on having before he passed to see all his old friends. It was knowing Noah, Michael and Grace were together with Ricky in her final moments. It was knowing whether or not Grace was having dinner with her brothers based on the choice of barbecue restaurant. It is here with the connection we have formed with Melissa’s family after Michael’s passing, and the warmth and guidance we are receiving from this tight knit group. And finally, it was the tales of Noah’s cousins singing old folk songs for Grandpa Sid.

Yes there is a lot of sadness, but there are also the most beautiful of memories. I am learning to sit with the conflicting feelings. And as Noah said at Michael’s funeral, “share your stories of loved ones often.” I’d love to have you make me smile with a beautiful memory – please share one with me.

1 thought on “Juxtapose”

  1. Stephanie S Mackey

    This is very beautifully written, I had such a hard time during mass on Sunday as feelings or worry, sadness, stress and anger became overwhelming during the opening song, “Why have you abandoned me?” It warms my heart to read your reflection and remember we have to have moments of pain so we appreciate the joy. It reminds me of flying to NYC and picking you and sweet baby Wiley up for Uncle Jim’s funeral, and the risk and fear of that rental car with bad brakes all the way to G’ville. So worth all of it for the feeling of home. XO!

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