Unexpected Departures

A week ago today (when I’m writing this, which Monday, not Wednesday, which is when you are presumably reading this), I received word that my aunt died. And while I have plenty of things I need to express about processing that death (still processing…), I feel the need right now to take a second to step back and actually look at the overall impact of a death in your circle of friends and families.

The last few years have taken a few of my loved ones from me, and although I don’t want to, in any way, discount the emotional toll that these deaths take, there’s a whole other piece of the puzzle that comes in to play, which is the absolutely upending of your life for the days following a death. It’s terribly sad to lose a loved one, and it’s hugely important to be there to remember their life with the rest of their loved ones, both for your own sake of closure, but also to serve as a support structure for the rest of those who feel left behind. But at the same time, there’s something that can sometimes be almost tragic about the way this can absolutely stop your life in its tracks, at least for a few moments.

My life, as of late, has been scheduled down to the second. Between school, work, yardwork, promoting a book to literary agents, beginning the workshopping of a new script, on top of the normal kid and wife and daily life stuff, well, I’ve spent the past few months of my life (maybe years), feeling as though I’m just barely scraping by with the things I need to get done in a day. Add onto that the fact that I also started a new job, which means I’m not only getting trained in the new job, but still having some crossover with the old job as I make sure all of my old work is still being taken care of, and you’ll find a version of me who really doesn’t feel as though free time is a thing anymore, even if I try to fit it in as much as possible.

But suddenly, none of this is supposed to matter. Because suddenly, something else, far more important, is the central action of your days. And suddenly, regardless of whether or not you’re ready for it (and let’s face it, you’re not), you have a person-sized hole in your life that you’re too busy to even fully recognize until you’re in the middle of all of your family and friends as they, too, are stepping away from their own busy lives to remember the life of someone who is no longer with us.

Funerals are important, both for you, as it forces you to actually take a second and allow the loss of life to be the only thing you’re thinking about, at least for a moment, but it also allows you to be there to support the others who are going through the same thing. And together you can realize that although you may have that person-sized hole in your life, you’re actually joined together with all these other people who now have that same hole.

Which means that regardless of how much effort I’m putting in right now in trying to catch back up on all of the things that I barely had control of a week ago when I learned I was going to have to freeze my life momentarily, I’m also happy that I took that time to remember that I’m not alone in my feeling of loss.

And that I’m also incredibly lucky that my wife was able to take the time to put in all the effort to make sure that we could actually make this happen. While I was busy trying to wrap up as many things for school and work as I could before leaving, she was calling airlines, booking tickets, hotels, getting babysitters, and making sure our lives, which can never fully be frozen in time, could go on without us.

Life goes on, as they say, but sometimes you have to just stop it as much as you can and allow the moment to recognize those whose lives have stopped going on. And that’s really hard to do.


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