No matter how much it hurts, I must believe that having love in my life is worth it.
When I was growing up, there was a clock in my grandma and grandpa’s house – it looked like a wooden sunburst and hung on the dining room wall over the table. One summer I found my grandfather holding the clock in his hands. They told me the clock had stopped running, so I accompanied them to the jewelers. While we stood waiting for help, I asked my grandmother where the clock had come from. It had been in their house as long as I could remember, and I realized curiously in that moment that I had no idea of its origins. In response to my question, my grandmother could only say one word, “Richard”.
Richard Bright was my uncle. He died in the Vietnam War before I was born. He had been my mother’s only sibling. What little facts I knew of my uncle were drawn from the memorabilia that my grandparents kept on the shelf – a folded United States Flag, a few medals, an iron-cast baby shoe and his high school graduation picture. He passed away when he was 21, and that was all I knew. No one ever talked about him. And as I stood there that day watching my grandmother project her feelings for her dead son onto this inanimate object, I realized that I was witnessing her raw grief, a grief that had been with her for over thirty years. And it reminded me of her old Persian cat, the one she would place on the kitchen countertop and brush. He would wrap his paws over the edge; flatten himself out like a pancake and purring loudly until she finished or until he got bored. And when he died I had seen that same grief on her face. And so I asked if she planned on getting another cat. She told me she couldn’t stand to lose anything else. That’s how my Grandma dealt with things. She closed herself off from the world, one person, one animal, and one loss at a time, and it broke my heart.
But when my grandma passed away last year, I finally understood the loss she had been avoiding. Even now, a year later, the pain of her death is as raw and fresh as if it happened yesterday. And I know that as I age, others will be lost to me too. But I will not close myself off. Because I believe that my life is better having love in it than by avoiding it. And most of all I know that the pain of losing loved ones is trumped only by the joy having had them in my life has given me. And I will carry that love with me, as long as I live.
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