If Hope is the thing with Feathers…

It’s been a tough week.  Some friends have passed away.  And some famous people have passed on, too.  It felt like every day for the last week someone I knew or someone I knew of died.

For some odd reason Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is the thing with feathers” has popped into my head.  If that’s what “hope” is, what is grief?  What is loss?

I think grief is the thing you stub your toe on in the middle of the night.

It’s the thing that hits you when you aren’t expecting to be hit. 

When someone you love dies, you feel the loss acutely.  It’s immediate and all-encompassing.  But after time passes — and the length is different for everyone — the pain seems to dull.  The grief fades into the background, almost forgotten. 

Until it jumps out and pokes you when you least expect it.

Deb gave me a framed photo for Christmas this year. 

It was a family photo of me, my two sisters, my two brothers, and my two parents.  It was the last official family photo we took before I got married.  Taken around 1987 or 1988.  It might be earlier than that.

Man, we’re all so young.  My kids are all older now than I am in that photo.

I marveled at the photo for a moment and then I had to look away.

Three of those people are dead.  My brother, my mother, and my father.

One second, I was appreciating seeing everyone caught together in a family pose.  And the next second, the loss gutted me.

The same thing happened five years ago when Deb gave me a photo of my father.  It was five years after he had passed away.  It’s a great photo.  And I enjoyed it for a moment and wham!  Emotion overwhelmed me.

The photo of my Dad is in my office.  I’m looking at it right now.  And I can look at it without being moved to tears.  But that first time caught me unaware.

The photo of my family is in our bedroom.  And I can look at it without the pang of loss.

Grief lurks below the surface.  Ready to pop out.  Always.

But it’s also a reminder of how much our loved ones meant. 

Although the grief can sting, it also means the love was strong.  And that the love lives on. 

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