September 10, 2007

The Remembering...

Growing up a funeral home owners daughter, my family saw, talked about, lived through, and in many ways experienced death daily.

It was a natural thing - not like a cheesy horror flick or "night of the living dead". It was just part of life and we talked openly about it. None of my three siblings and I ever feared a casket or attending a funeral. In fact, each of us has worked at funerals over time for our Dad - save for the baby sister of ours who is fresh out of highschool. But she too has had her share of exposure to the family business.

As living and breathing people, we have limits to what our minds will process. In other words, we have expectations of death. We need it to be in a very neat box. We need it to be gentle. As gentle as it can be. Our feelings and mental pictures toward death are generally very negative, but we all hope for the peaceful exit. We hope for the passing that takes place while we sleep. We hope that for our loved ones too. We can't bear the thought of suffering or seeing those we love suffer.

But I can recall many times that my Dad would sit with us at the end of a particularly hard day and say "it still gets me when it's a child, or a baby, or someone who has died tragically." And I can understand that. For instance, even though we loved and adored both of my grandparents, each of them were well into their eighties and had lived long seasoned lives. We lost my Grandma to cancer. Grandpa went somewhat suddenly from heart failure. We hated to see them go, but we knew it was time. It was just time. On the other hand, when my Aunt took her own life, we were shocked and bewildered. We couldn't get our heads around her passing. Likewise, when a child dies, or someone we love passes away in a car accident, it just goes against everything inside of us. It just gnaws at the heart and tears away at the fragility of our lives. It makes us all feel so temporary.

I do remember what I was doing 9-11-01. I'm sure you do to. I watched it all - unfolding like a bad dream on my TV. But as I sat on my couch that night and the several nights that followed, I could not seem to tear my eyes from the personal tragedies filling up the screen. The faces of the lost on posters, hung on fences, street signs, walls, stores. Everywhere. The lost. The missing. Here's my husband...he was wearing jeans...and a dress shirt...he's a great Dad...he's the love of my life...I think he was on the 86th floor. Please, if you've seen him - call this number. Phone numbers splashed across these signs - caution gone and open desperation in it's place. Crying and overwhelmed faces of family pleading for any news. Every single face on those posters, a loved one tragically stolen and gone, just like that.

There are a few times in our lives when our mortality comes to visit our thoughts. Not even just of our own life, but of those we love. We think "what if that was me...what if that was my love...what if that was my Mom". Do you ever find yourself thinking that? Or how about just having those moments where you are going about your day, and you find your eyes wandering to the one you love? And then it hits you. What will I do when you're not here anymore? How will I go on? Heck, I think that when I look at my animals. Please don't die, I whisper in their floppy ears while they nap. Never leave us! We love you so...

On 9-11-01, I was married not quite five months. As I sat staring at the TV all evening, perplexed and overwhelmed, with the world, I began to feel that weight of losing your loved ones in a flash. I pictured the wife, kissing her husband goodbye as he quickly dashed out the door, late for work. She continued on with her morning. Today would be like any other. No reason to believe otherwise. But he wasn't coming back. That peck and quick goodbye was the last. When they went to bed that night before, maybe he said something funny and they laughed and she reminded him how much he always makes her laugh? That night spent curled next to each other, was the last one of it's kind for them. That last glance and quick "see you later, love you" and "love you too, have a good day" was their final moment - though they didn't know it. And if you multiply that by 2,974 - you begin to feel the enormity of the overwhelming loss on that day. That tragic, unexpected moment in time where our lives get ripped open by sudden loss and death, in all it's finality.

That night, I crawled half sobbing into bed next to AB. He didn't stir, because he's a heavy sleeper. But this gave me the opporunity to curl up beside him and cry myself to sleep. I kept thinking "what if it had been you?" What if he had been the one to leave that morning and never come home? What if he had been the one to kiss me as I slept and slip out for work, only to be tragically killed hours later? That night, thousands of families were grieving over the lost - hundreds, maybe a thousand or more wives were crying in their beds, next to an empty spot that had the scent of their husbands still on his pillow? The indent on the mattress where he slept. Your mind can't get around it. It does not make sense. We can't even begin to comprehend it, because it's so unbelievable, so incomprehensible. Someone who was with us this morning, and such a strong and important part of our lives, is never coming back. That's tragedy.

All I kept thinking was "the humanity"! How tragic...how horrible...how final. The humanity! I still find myself from time to time catching documentaries from 9/11, and I feel that same panic that I did back then. That same "oh God...please, it's so terrible!" It all comes back and I feel that overwhelming gratefulness for those I love.

...and so it's true, that no matter how accustomed or unaccustomed we may be in dealing with death in general, we are never prepared for it's tragic and unexpected appearance in our lives. We are never prepared for losing our loved ones through tragic loss - we cannot fathom this type of pain or loss. And not one among us wants to. We certainly cannot fathom losing almost three thousands sons and daughters in one morning, and yet it is the same tragedy that breaks our hearts, that also draws us all together and calls us to love each other better and to extend the hand of love to others. It causes us to re-evaluate what's important. It makes us stop and take stock of our priorities. And it certainly brings us closer.

Take time today to tell them you love them. You know who "they" are.

I remember 9/11.

7 comments :

Anonymous said...

I was so moved by this post. You expressed things well.

Love,
Momma Martha

amy said...

Wonderful post..Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This is definitely day of for reflection and remembering

Doris & Dan said...

A day etched in our hearts and minds forever. Thx for the reminder.

Keep smilin!

Isabella's Mommy & Daddy said...

Wonderful post...
I had chills while reading..
You are a GREAT lady..
Thanks for all the warm comments in my time of pain..
Kim

Misty said...

Heavens girl, reading your post will teach me to NOT check blogs while I'm at work. How do I explain to my boss why I'm sitting here bawling my eyes out? Beautifully written:)

Anonymous said...

beautiful post...thoughtful..we never do know when something will happen and always have to live life to the fullest...this is one day we can never forget as it shook our hearts and country. thank you for remembering ... linda

Anonymous said...

I love you Christie...........
deany