Forrest Gump: When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.
Woman on Park Bench: And so, you just ran?
Forrest Gump: Yeah.
I thought about this conversation from the movie, Forrest Gump, this morning as I was thinking about my dad and about loss. I thought about how different I am today compared to the me when I lost my mom. Today, I have more life under my belt. I’m not saying I’m more “prepared” but life and living certainly changes things. Also, it’s not my first time journeying through death valley…so there is a familiarness to it all.
Yet, the one thing that seems to be the same this time around are the waves. 25 years ago, when my mom died, I didn’t know about the waves. This time around, I do. Maybe that’s why I feel a little more “prepared.”
Today, I know how those waves sometimes come out of nowhere. I know how they can knock you down and take the wind out you even on a seemingly calm, sunny day.
Last night a friend at church asked me how I was doing as I passed him. I answered honestly. “I’m doing great!” And I was, yesterday was a good day. The sea was calm. A minute later, as I walked by again, this same friend looked at me and said. “But how are you? Are you okay?”
I smiled and told him another truth. “It’s been a rough week. It comes in waves. But I’m doing okay. Thank you for asking.”
Here’s what I know now that I didn’t know then.
Today I know…waves will come… and sometimes all you can do is hold on and ride them out. I think this is why I thought of the Forrest Gump scene above. When a wave hits, you find yourself doing what you have to do to survive. You listen to what your body needs, pray and then … keep moving forward, keep running up the road.
Today I know…the pain of grief never goes away completely (this side of eternity). You never “get over it.” I also know that pretending to get over it and moving on only delays the healing and recovery.
Today I know…I don’t have to stop talking about loved ones after they die. When my mom died there were times when folks would avoid the conversation…thinking if they didn’t bring it up, it was, somehow, the polite or loving thing to do. Years ago, I took this to mean that I shouldn’t talk about or bring it up anymore either. I thought since others avoided the topic, then I should too. I know differently today. So I will talk about it and bring it up as often as need be.
Grief doesn’t heal when you sweep it under a rug. It took me a decade to learn that the first time around.
Today, let’s not pretend (and I’m guilty of doing this too because sometimes it’s the easier more convenient route) that the grief elephant has left the room when you converse with a friend who is journeying through a valley. That elephant? It’s there. It’s always there.
Today, I ‘m thankful for friends who ask the tough questions.