Living with loss…
A little over six months ago, I spent the afternoon with my precious granddaughter, Sarah. A week later, she was fighting for her life. When her body gave out after an amazingly brave battle, she transitioned to heaven, leaving all of those who love her behind, living in our own Hell on earth. Our loss, Heaven’s gain.
When I took her to the labyrinth on a sunny, cool, November day, I promised her we’d come back each season, take photos, and see the changes in nature. We’d have wonderful memories and photos to look back on, and the moment I hugged her in the center of the labyrinth, I knew it was our special place.
I’ve been back several times, sometimes alone, sometimes with my sister-in-law, Sarah’s great-aunt. Just a few weeks ago we returned, and it was nice to be there. I felt Sarah’s presence, and I took several photos of the labyrinth in the spring.
Sarah was so full of love, light and life. She had a very strong faith. Her creativity has inspired me on my most difficult days.
To say I miss her is a gross understatement. Just a few days ago, I was driving home from the store and it felt like someone punched me in the stomach. She’s not here, I lamented. The reality of this great loss sent me spiraling into a deep, profound grief. While I can certainly feel her, it isn’t the same as having her with me in the physical realm.
I see Sarah all the time. I see her in the butterflies that flutter through the yard. I even planted cone flowers in her honor, just to encourage the butterflies. As I planted them, and as I watch them grow, I think of Sarah every time I look at them.
I saw Sarah in the blooms at the labyrinth. The bumble bees that enjoyed the sweet nectar – she was fascinated by nature.
I see Sarah in the cardinals flying so effortlessly, sharing their brilliant red color against the backdrop of the winter’s snow or in the fresh greenery of spring.
I see Sarah in the fireflies that are beginning to appear in the evenings. I remember her and her sister collecting fireflies in mason jars.
Sarah was always concerned – should we keep them contained? Add grass clippings and water for them? Or do we set them free?I see Sarah in heart-shaped things – rock formations, water droplets, in my oatmeal or in a leaf on the sidewalk. One of my nieces shares her heart findings with me. We love our Sarah moments. Click To Tweet
I see Sarah in brilliant sunrises, sunsets and cloud formations – many in the shape of angels. She loved taking photos of clouds – something I’ve always done, too.
I feel Sarah’s presence when I see her in nature, in art, in a young girl in our neighborhood who looks uncannily similar to Sarah.
I feel Sarah on my most difficult days, and feel her hug me. A few times I have even heard her say, “Mema, you are stronger than you know.”
I hear her when I catch her favorite music playing on the radio or in a waiting room.
I see Sarah when she visits me in a dream.
I talk to Sarah every day. I thank her for showing me she is with me, even though I can’t see her. I tell her I love her.
Returning to the labyrinth, I always giggle and turn to the now-empty passenger seat, telling her to “buckle up!” I know she is shaking her head at me, with her special grin, saying, “Oh Mema,” like she did anytime I shared a bad pun or joke.
Living with grief is difficult at best. Adjusting to the new normal of her not just showing up for the heck of it is painful. Seeing her sister and brother playing without Sarah is a picture I never dreamed would be a part of my reality. I cry every time, because my head and my heart tell me that “this isn’t right.”
I think our world’s current distresses would be really difficult for her very gentle soul – to see so much pain. On the other hand, I think she would have done everything in her power to bring peace to her family and friends. She always made my world a better place.
I think that is why I enjoyed the labyrinth with Sarah. There was peace. I found peace when I was there taking the photos for spring – keeping my promise to her.
Sarah will be with me when I go again, taking the summer photos. I can’t believe that she’s been gone for six months. Some days, it seems like yesterday. Some days, it seems like years ago.
It’s so hard to navigate this emptiness and grief. It’s painful, and then it’s joyful when I get a glimpse of her. And then it’s painful again.
And while I used to be embarrassed to cry – especially in public – I honor her with my tears. The loss of Sarah has been so profound and shocking and surreal. And I am learning to honor her with my smiles, too. Because she loved to smile and giggle and love and create and most of all, she loved to live.
So, here you go, Boo. Just as I promised, the photos from spring. Soon, I’ll add the summer ones to our collection. I know you’ll be with me, in your own special way.
Love you, Boo
© Lynne Cobb – 2020
How do you handle grief? Please share any thoughts or tips you may have. You never know who you will help.