A lost child.
A lost mother.
A lost sister.
That’s what this week represents for two of my friends. One just got through the anniversary of losing her son. Tomorrow, she faces the anniversary of her sister’s passing.
Another friend lost her mom on today’s date five years ago.
Sept. 11, 2002 felt very heavy to a lot of Americans. Maybe even to people in other countries. I don’t know.
It just felt monumental. And a little scary, maybe. Like something bad was more likely to happen on that particular date than any other. That’s a foolish and irrational fear. But I had it. As did countless others.
Every September 11 feels big and important now to Americans. Maybe it always will.
It’s interesting to me that we are so focused on these dates. That we are affected emotionally by the date on the calendar. It’s a little arbitrary, really. Especially when you start considering things like Leap Year and Daylight Savings Time.
But it matters. It does.
Like a birthday.
Like a wedding anniversary.
Like the day your spouse leaves you.
But is that healthy? For us to conjure up the emotions of those difficult moments in our lives? The times when we hurt the most? And relive it?
Maybe I Don’t Get An Opinion
I’ve been so lucky.
So unbelievably lucky.
To have my parents. My siblings. My son.
In high school, one of the guys in our class was killed tragically in a car accident. He was a good guy, too. But that was the one year of my youth where I lived 500 miles west of my Ohio hometown. While all of my friends had to deal with mortality in a very direct and abrupt way, I was insulated from the horror by being so far away.
I’ve lost grandparents and great grandparents. But I still have a bunch, too. Blessed.
I’ve written before about losing my uncle to a car accident when I was in high school. That was hard and unexpected. But he lived in Wisconsin and I lived in Ohio and almost never saw him. So, nothing really changed for me. Lucky.
My father-in-law passing suddenly in late 2011 has been my most-difficult loss. I can’t even begin to understand how my wife and her immediate family must have felt.
Those were hard times, made harder by the fact that my marriage fell apart right around the same time.
Those are my dates. My anniversaries.
The death of my father-in-law.
The day she left.
Those are the ones that will stay with me. At least until they don’t anymore.
So I don’t know how to relive the loss of a child.
Or the loss of a close friend.
Or the loss of a parent or sibling.
The only great loss I really know is the loss of a family. And we’re coming up on those anniversaries. That one-year mark is less than a month away now. And I’m acutely aware of its approach.
It doesn’t matter how irrational it is. It doesn’t matter how little good thinking about it and reflecting on it and reliving it will do. That’s almost certainly what is going to happen.
As if the 364 days in between were somehow less-worthy occasions for such an exercise.
When do we let go?
Maybe We Don’t
Maybe it’s okay to hurt.
For any reason at all, actually. But especially because of an important anniversary. Especially because of a great loss.
We spend our lives losing. People. Things. Opportunities. Innocence.
Then we grieve. And we suffer.
But then we heal. And we grow.
So, maybe we don’t. Maybe we don’t let go.
Because if it mattered enough to have the day mean something, then dammit, maybe it matters enough to take that time to reflect on all that’s been lost and gained since.
Those people mattered!
Those events—those things that happened—mattered!
That’s what millions of untold people are doing every day.
That’s what my friends are doing this week.
That’s what I’ll be doing soon enough.
So I’m just going to hold on. Like I did with my wedding rings. Like I did with my house. Like I did with several things within the walls and within myself.
And that’s just going to have to be okay.
When do we let go?
When it’s time.
When is that?
We’ll know it when it gets here.