“Of course, it’s not an easy journey. You need your family with you.”
This was my reply to my husband near the end of a six-hour drive from Minnesota for a family reunion. My father-in-law’s health was deteriorating and while we knew it would be difficult, we knew he wanted to see nephews, nieces, cousins and a lifelong friend. I knew it was important to Earl and that all of his children and their families be with him.
We had a wonderful weekend of laughter and sharing memories as a family, but somewhere in the pit of my stomach I knew it would be the last time I would see him. I wanted to be wrong, but again the instincts that I have learned to trust told me to say what needed to be said.
When I hugged him good-bye, I didn’t want to let go as I told him “I love you” for the final time. It was the same for each of us. Just before I closed the car door I told him “behave yourself” to which he replied “always.”
I think Earl knew that he wouldn’t see any of us in this life again and really wanted it to be that way. He had fought all he could against the leukemia that took him from us. He and his wife, Vera, had planned to start hospice on Monday and by Friday, he had passed. It went so fast.
Going through pictures in preparation of the funeral I found memories that I had tucked away just like the photos.
I had known Earl since I was seventeen, but didn’t return to the Lyons family until I was twenty-four with a baby in my arms. My daughter said it best in a blog post earlier this weekend “He chose to love me” and I’m so glad we were a part of his life.
We found photos of Earl with Elyse riding her bike and him giving her the cherished wagon. She was just over a year, but we could understand “I love it” being repeated excitedly. He had found a battery operated John Deere tractor for Luke when he was a toddler. Luke’s wide smile in the picture said it all. He rode the wheels off of that thing!
There were photos of family vacations, camping trips and just ordinary days. All precious memories now. “The mind replays what the heart can’t delete.” (Unknown)
Earl had an easy going nature most of the time, but he also had a temperament that wasn’t always easy to love. I could count on him to share his honest opinion and he always had one of those. I learned to appreciate that quality even if I didn’t agree.
After my dad died of cancer five years ago, I think I clung to the relationship that I had with Earl a little more. After all, we need family with us during those difficult journeys.
The loss of a loved one and the grief that follows is different for every person. There is not a textbook way of coping or a laid out plan for healing.
This is the best advice I found:
“If you love something, love it completely, cherish it, say it, but most importantly, show it. Life is finite and fragile, and just because something is there one day, it might not be the next. Never take that for granted. “
“Say what you need to say, then say a little more. Say too much. Show too much. Love too much.”
“Everything is temporary but love. Love outlives us all.” (R. Queen)