Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering those we've loved and lost

Happy Memorial Day everyone! I hope you have all had a wonderful kickoff to the summer vacation season, which is part of what this weekend is all about.

But I don't want to use this post to talk about vacations; instead, I'd like to talk about the real reason we celebrate Memorial Day: to remember out loved ones who have died. You all know that loss of a loved one has been on my mind for the past little while because of what my family and I have been through, but today was a good reminder of other loved ones who've gone before.
Since we knew today was going to be a fairly busy day, my family made our rounds of the four cemeteries in our area (apparently there's one more I didn't know about, but oh well. We don't have any family buried there and it's way out in the country, so I don't feel bad that we didn't visit) last night. It was a pretty great experience.
Our first visit: the cemetery in my tiny Idaho hometown. In my opinion, I think this is the best maintained of the four cemeteries. They really do a great job with it. This cemetery is the final resting place for my beautiful niece. Since her passing was so recent, I was concerned that visiting her grave might be hard, but it was okay. See the beautiful flowers my sister and my niece's best friend placed on the grave? She doesn't have a headstone yet, but we still know right where she is.
My niece is buried next to my grandfather who actually died almost 18 years ago. Part of me can't believe it's been that long since he died, but time does pass quickly. This is his headstone. Thinking about my niece and how much her loss still hurts at times made me reflect on my grandpa too and how sad we all were when he died rather unexpectedly. He was a wonderful man, and I'm sure he's doing great work on the other side now. I was glad to remember his wisdom and the legacy he left behind.
I don't have photos to include but we also visited the graves of my niece who was stillborn, my great aunt and uncle, a couple sets of great-grandparents, my grandpa on my dad's side of the family and my uncle who died 14 years ago. Each of these losses did impact my life, even if I didn't know the person (such as my great-grandparents who died long before I was born) in that they taught someone I loved who has in turn passed their wisdom on to me.
This one isn't a family member, but she was a family friend. She taught at the same school my father teaches at for many years. In fact, she was teaching at the time she died. I think she was even my younger brother's teacher at one point. She died very suddenly and unexpectedly two years ago. I was thinking about her daughter and husband, whom I'm sure still miss her very much. I don't have a picture of this either, but I also visited the grave of one of my best friend's mothers who also died before her time. This friend and her husband stopped by to visit on Sunday, and it just made me think about the hole her mother's death left in her life which can never be filled. Her mother also left her a wonderful legacy and example.

I hope I haven't depressed all of you with this entry. It's not just about death and losing loved ones; my intention is to instead remember those who have impacted my life and to honor them for that.

Someone told me either right before or soon after my niece died that you never get over losing someone you love. At the time I found it to be a depressing statement and was disinclined to believe them. However, as time has passed, and I have felt the pain of loss so keenly, I can understand what they were trying to tell me. Nothing can ever fill the hole that person leaves when they die, and it's likely we will mourn that person for the rest of our mortal lives. But, it's our job to try to remember that person as best we can, learn from the example they set for us and keep the hope alive in our hearts that we will see them again. Healing from death doesn't mean forgetting; it means finding a way to cope and moving forward. I'm glad Memorial Day could remind me of that.

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