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Mary’s Musings: Reflections on grief and community

I often refer to the residents here at the Presbyterian Manor as family, but I also believe that we are a unique community. Community is defined as a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.

Throughout my life, I have been blessed to be surrounded and supported by many different communities. Each one of these communities provide caring support and encouragement during the many different stages of my life. August has become a month of reflection for me. It was on August 18, 2006, that our family was changed forever. It was the day our son, Todd, died in a car accident.

Coming from large families, Kenny and I had experienced the loss of parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews and close friends in what seems like every conceivable way; old-age, cancer, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s, accidents, suicide, murder and flash floods. We had also experienced the life-changing loss of jobs, pets, homes, relationships and communities.

Having experienced loss in so many ways, I thought I knew about grief and mourning. Was I ever wrong. Each loss affects our life in a multitude of different ways. My mother’s heart was broken, but the realization that my grandson would grow up without a father ripped apart my grandmother’s heart. Recently, while attending the funeral of a friend, I was visiting with her two sons and waves of grief washed over me as I realized I would never see our son grow old.

Our Literary Ladies group at Presbyterian Manor just finished reading “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,” by Gail Honeyman. When we first met Eleanor in the book she seems like a strange, odd duck who is completely out of step with her work community and the world. As the story evolves, we discover the horrendous losses she has survived. Beginning with an abusive mother who sets fire to their home, causing the death of her younger sister and life-long scarring to her face and her emotions. As she begins making friends and opening up a little, we begin to experience her transformation. She tells us, “I felt like a newly laid egg, all swishy and gloopy inside, and so fragile that the slightest pressure could break me.”

When she talks about death and loss, she says: “Time only blunts the pain of loss. It doesn’t erase it. It takes a long time to learn to live with loss, assuming you ever manage it. After all these years, I’m still something of a work in progress in that regard. Grief is the price we pay for love, so they say. The price is far too high. But the days and weeks after that … that’s when it really starts to get hard. The only way to survive is to open your heart.”

Like Kenny and I, this Presbyterian Manor community is filled with people who have wrestled with many losses and the grief and mourning that accompanies it.

My prayer for each of you is that our community may help you to find comfort, hope and new life in the days ahead.

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