James A Rutherford Funeral Home
In everyone’s life there are moments that feel longer than lifetimes. These moments might be welcome and happy moments, or they might be sad and sullen. Shocking things insinuate themselves into the psyche. They dig into the fabric of thought. They grow. Parasites. Wonderful things, joyous things; things that pour themselves over us in a hug and envelope us like a new skin in which we walk around, smiling – these things often need to be stirred to bring them to the surface years later.
Between the two, it’s often the unwanted thoughts that, for some of us, raise their ugly heads the most or remain without permission. Why? Is it just a part of human beings to dwell on the atrocities, the “mistakes”, the darker days? No. Yet in the news, the atrocities and sensationalists reign.
It’s important to understand that the unwanted thoughts and memories, precisely the things we fight against, manifest strong and supreme the more we struggle against them if we don’t know what weapons to use. That is not to say that those thoughts shouldn’t be fought. It’s in the manner of battle itself, where the key lies. Those ghosts, so infallible, so present, should be fought through, not fought against! Nor should they be numbed either, because after the numbing... they remain.
As soon as one sets up an adversary, an opponent – it's them or you, bad or good, loss or gain. When I fight against something, I place all my power into pushing it away or destroying it. I will not and I cannot absorb it, understand it, or reconcile it, which is what I need to do – firmly and finally, to vanquish it. To do that I must approach it knowing it has something to teach me, something that, even if it isn’t apparent to me now, will make me stronger once I’ve moved into it and reconciled it from the inside.
There has been many a time when the shock of the words spoken, the action of the person, the not-so-well-hidden lie has slapped me in the face with an open palm and I’m left standing there dumbfounded. These incidents remain in the brain for a very long time! One such incident, for example, occurred with my own mother when she appeared pushed to her limits inside her dementia. After a childhood of reciprocal loving kindness, teenage years of support and sharing life after my parents' divorce, a young adulthood of living nearby and then daily support in her ailing years... she looked at me directly in the eyes on a particularly bad day and hurtfully exclaimed, “I hate you. You never loved me!”
Time stopped. The fatigue of months of care visits overtook me. Was she speaking to me!? Her son? The man who did everything he could to illustrate his love and concern for her? Or was she seeing my father, the man who divorced her, in a flash of regret or anger that she rarely showed? At the time it made no difference. Those words might as well have been blades pushed into the heart while she sat before me, bitter. I swallowed down a knot just as the eyes filled with water and I felt myself slipping under the wave. I had to get up, walk away, in order not to reveal the wound she inflicted – so as not to hurt her further somehow with my pain.
That cruel bitterness stayed with me a long time. Long after she died. I had to sit with it and sit with her once again before me, like a ghost, to understand. I had to absorb the pain of her losses to feel her confusion, her lost autonomy – to finally know, that a lifetime of love and devotion is not thrown away by seven misguided words. And whether she said it to me or saw someone else in her mind's eye did not deter me from coming to a final resting place of knowing that I had not failed her.
These mortal shock waves roll over every one of us. Sudden deaths. Betrayals. Withdrawn love. They feel like lifetimes because they are tiny deaths of the heart and there is suddenly a mountainside to scale in order to understand what just happened. And most often, the deepest hurt is through friends, relatives, people we care about. When this happens, it is essential that we stop or move into an action that is diametrically opposed to what it is we are feeling. Hug rather than hurt. Or not. Walk away. Let the time pass. Steady yourself as you must. Sit in that moment and come back knowingly – so that those moments do not become lifetimes.
UNTIL SOON. LIVE WELL.