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It’s been a little more than a month since my dad died unexpectedly. In this short time, I’ve experienced the pain of grief, as you might expect, but I’ve also experienced some very warm and heartfelt moments.

The past five weeks have been a reminder that love always surrounds us. In our modern, busy lives, we may not always feel or recognize it, but love is there. Caring and kindness spring from our friends, family and co-workers… even total strangers. Just when we need support, people rise to meet us. Let me share a few examples.

The visitation for Dad was at Duffy-Pils Memorial Home in Fairbury, about 45 miles from my home. Rob and Debbie Duffy handled the arrangements in a perfect balance of compassion and efficiency. They were wonderful.

I stood in the receiving line by the casket next to my stepmother. I had planned to listen and be gracious because I know how awkward that kind of situation can be for some people. But there was no uneasiness at all; the callers were so caring! They told me stories about Dad I had never heard. Some laughed; some cried. They hugged me and held my hand. This really touched my heart.

There were people who came that evening who had never met my dad. When I saw them walk through the door of the funeral home, I realized these friends had made the out-of-town trip to show their concern for my family. Right before Christmas, when schedules are hectic, they had taken three hours or more to come. I was humbled by their demonstration of support, and I will remember it all my life.

People have stopped me at work, church, stores and on the street to share their own dealings with grief. Some have reflected on sudden loss versus the death of a loved one after a prolonged illness. From each of these chats, I’ve gained new perspective.

A few weeks after the service, I was sitting in a cafeteria when a man I had never met approached me. “I read your column about your dad,” he said, and then he spoke about the loss of his daughter. I was touched by his openness, but not surprised.

People have a deep need to relate to each other. They want to connect. Many want to share their experiences with the events, like death, that bind us together as humans.

The outreach and caring have made an impact on me. A co-worker lost his father right after Christmas. In the past, I may or may not have sent a card, depending on how busy I was. But not now. I want to show the same respect that has been shown to me.

“You view these things differently after you’ve gone through it,” said a friend. “You make the effort.” She’s right.

And, I have heard from many of you, dear readers. I am overwhelmed by your cards and generous caring.

One reader wrote, “I never knew Norm Rittenhouse was your father until I read his obituary.” The gentleman, an acquaintance of Dad’s, explained he had written a book. Because Dad occasionally inquired about the progress of the book, the man intended to give him a copy, but was unable to do that in time. Instead, he sent the book to me.

My sister and I have been talking at night about these things. The early days after Dad’s death were a blur and, now, with a month behind us, we’re remembering — and cherishing — all the wonderful acts of generosity shown to us.

We’ve been reminded of life’s big lesson; that birth and death are known to us all, but the love, kindness and sharing in between are what count. The love we show one another is what makes our human hearts sing, and that is what makes life worth living.

Contact Susan Hazlett at susanrhazlett@yahoo.com or write to her in care of The Pantagraph, 301 W. Washington St., Bloomington, IL 61702-2907.

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