Guilt Trip

LettingBirdsGo

No one programs this trip into GPS but, survivor guilt is something anyone who’s lost someone feels at one time or another. The soldier who returns from devastating traumas of war. A parent who’s lost their precious child. Siblings, like my sister and I, who lost a young brother. Those still standing after a disaster. Or maybe, like me, you were the ‘healthy’ one to the partner no longer here.

Being a survivor isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

Yet, survivor’s guilt is ridiculously normal. (Yea, I’m normal!) Teeny bit or boatload, it’s not unhealthy, even if it feels that way sometimes, unless of course it doesn’t ease over time, becomes overwhelming or obsessive. If it does, there is always help waiting to reset the balance. But even when survivor guilt is the run of the mill, ‘normal’ kind, it’s still a buzz kill.

Don’t get me wrong. Having done everything I possibly could, every day and year I had my husband, I live with no guilt about my life with him. He and I did the very best we could with what we were handed, and when he left this planet, I know he left knowing, as I did, that love survived it all. So what’s the guilt about then?

I’m here — and he’s not.

When my young brother died, I was a new mom, complete with house and babies, but he didn’t live to have any of it. It felt so wrong, so ridiculously bizarre, that his life was stolen and mine was beginning. He’s been gone many years; my husband only two yet, an empty space is still an empty space. Their journeys carved gaping holes, making it easy to think – why them and not me?

The hole only a grandpa could fill was never more glaring than at my granddaughter’s engagement party this past weekend. Our beautiful, sometimes rebellious teen, with a gorgeous singing voice, has become a gorgeous, gracious soon to be Mrs. I didn’t have to ask if she, too, was remembering the grandpa who mentored her, taught her to drive, loved and believed in her. She is the woman we always knew she would become yet her doting grandpa won’t be here to share her wedding next year. As we celebrated the engaged couple with laughs, hugs, toasts and enough steaks, and beer to float all the milennials’ boats, I believe he was there. I suspect he watched as paparazzi gramma snapped away, soaking up every bit of happy with my kidlets and grands. I wondered, was he watching somewhere in the ethernet, teasing our grandgirl about ever present can of Red Bull? Did he whisper to her ‘You did good, sweetie’? I’ve never been into Houdini vanishing acts and can’t say what he can see or feel (he’s not talking) but I believe that chatty man would never miss that party.

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An Accident . . . of Fate

MyCarRingI don’t know who she was. I don’t know her name, age or where she was going that sunny Saturday noon. But a few nights ago I was told that she, an unsuspecting passenger in the car that hit mine that Saturday — died. I had wondered, in the days since, if she and the driver, not much older than I, were alright given the force of the crash. The truth did not set me free, if indeed I had needed it. Instead, her death hit hard and I grieved for a woman I never knew, who was merely a bit player in a sad, now deadly scenario.

I should be used to life’s wayward swings, its errant pendulum. How else could I explain the crazy things that happen in mine and everyone’s life? Could there another explanation for why, leaving my husband for just an hour, I came home to find him dead of an embolism? Was it his crazy luck of the draw or mine; God’s ‘plan’ or the universe blinking? Whichever way we toss the cards, we’ll never get to hold a full house for long. Even if we get a straight flush in our grasp, none of us hold on to it forever.

Accidents don’t come with a bell around its neck.

When I envision that fateful day, just 3 weeks ago, I wonder what might have changed the trajectory of each of our fates. Maybe I could have browsed longer for gifts or took another route home. The mom driving the car behind me, could have taken the kids that usually sat in the empty car seats instead of likely leaving them with her husband so she could run some quick errands. And the car barreling toward both of us? What put them on that road, in the wrong lane and speeding without slowing down. Were they going to visit friends, grandchildren, even an early movie? All I know is that something went terribly wrong that noon hour and a woman is dead because of it. The driver? I have to think a spirit is broken, and a heart is heavier than the weight of all three of the cars.

Just one moment can change everything. A momentary lapse in judgment or ability can happen and, in a blink of an eye, something irrevocable happens. That kind of realization can cause a mighty kick in the gut.

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Flying Blind

Sixty-and-Me_How-to-Deal-with-Grief-740x416The night that changed everything — is still with me. No matter how I wish I could erase it, it’s part of me now. Less immediate, less traumatically intense these days; sometimes even in hiding but never too far away. As much as I want to securely seal every terrible moment behind bulletproof doors, I somehow also call them out.

Why? It certainly seems a bit masochistic not to work harder to erase what’s so devastating, right? Maybe I do it for the same reason we peel back a bandaid from a wound, telling ourselves we’ll just take a peek to see how it’s progressing. Right. We know that each time we peel it, pick at it, irritate it, it hurts all over again until a proper scar is permanent evidence of what happened.

Do I think that if I lose the throbbing pain of that night that I’d actually lose the vibrancy, the essence of the man himself? That I will not pay proper loving tribute to the history, the journey, or the ending of it all? Or could I really imagine that if the pictures in my head of his very last earthly night leave me —that he will too? That certainly sounds more than a little crazy, and I’m thinking a bit bizarre because even I know he gone. Continue reading