I have found myself, over the last few months, shrouded in a mysterious melancholy, until I began remembering. Remembering the many connected to my life who have lost theirs. A few months ago, I lost my mentor and friend who enabled me to find not only a career but a life’s passion. Then more people followed. Members of groups I was so fortunate to be a part of over the last thirteen years in the Harbor Springs-Petoskey area. Seems as if every day I read a familiar obituary. Then to add to the devastation of spirit, many in my life became terminally ill – most either younger or nearly the same age.
In the midst of it all, COVID was easing, my book was launching, and I wanted to engage the world with a smile. I could not find it; well, I played like I did, but inside I was breaking. I was crying. Quite literally, after the fifth death in a month and two family members hovering over the grave, I found myself quivering at the drop of a hat. A sad movie, a cloudy day, a frown from Christine, anything threw me into waves of sorrow.
Last month we attended the memorial service and family reunion celebrating the life of Christine’s Aunt Theresa McFadden. The clouds began to thin, and the morass of angst eased. This venerable woman was an institution in her community near and around Jefferson City. Spearheading or solely responsible for a constant barrage of charity directed at friends and neighbors, she never glorified the grace she bestowed. She liked to do things quietly. I began to understand my depression as a spoiled way to remember the many. An egotistical whining. Death happens. It is a part of living, and I should relish the lives these people have lived. Aunt Theresa was a big part of “The Penny.” She helped put things in order and gave me a laugh or two when memorializing Penny. She was a true hero of life.
My mood reframed, the road trip with Christine was fabulous. I felt a pall lift from my body. And as I sat on a plane drafting this piece on the way to visit family and grandchildren, I have noticed a smile – even under the mask. Celebrating life, before and after death, is not only noble it is lifegiving.
And this I will remember, as I attend yet another memorial service for Judy Murphy along with a service for my son-in-law’s father. He succumbed to a long, cantankerous battle with dementia. Mike Jenkins was a marvelous spirit who raised children to be fearless and hopeful of a better life then he had endured. My tears flowed, again.
Thank you, Aunt Theresa. I barely knew you and then I found your love in the most unexpected places – including my own shadowed soul.