So often in life we don’t get the chance to say goodbye, while other times we do. As our family navigates hospice for one of our beloved….. it feels like the beginning as well as the ending. Guiding our son through the process is somewhat of a crapshoot…. as there is no guide for how this all happens.
For us… keeping as much normalcy in our days is crucial to everyone. For our family this includes ensuring everyone gets their training in, because training is so much more than heart rates and miles. It’s how and where we process, think, and cope with many things. Some people find solace within the four walls of a church. I find it deep in the forrest on a trail. These days while I run with Luc it’s our place to talk about what this whole death and dying thing is about. I was going to say that for a 15 year old…. he’s asking all the questions… but really for anyone….he’s asking all the right things. I don’t know if at 15 I would have thought to ask or to talk. But give us our running shoes, a trail and an hour…. and we’ve discussed the meaning of life, what it means to live with presence, and what we need to do to take care of one another through the grieving process.
Aside from that and the time we spend at her bedside…. we keep life as normal as possible. There is a fine line between escaping and maintaining normalcy.
To be very honest I just want to grab my board and head out on the biggest lake I can find for a few hours and I understand that seems like I want to run away. For me it’s not running away to do that… it’s to run towards. It’s why I did Ironman for so long while I worked a very emotionally heavy nursing position (in pediatric step down and emergency). Heading out on my bike for 6 hours was where I thought about the meaning of not being able to save that four year old, or assisting a family through the most devastating diagnosis possible.
Some people hit the bottle, others talk it out… I head out where I can move my body and wring out my soul.
It’s just how I am wired. Until that lake warms up, we run. Deep into the woods where the deer run so close to us we could touch them. Where the ground is beginning to warm up to spring. Where the smell of nature is so prominent and meaningful.
That’s where I find God.
If there is one thing I learned from Granny (she’s my mother in law but we call her granny)…. it’s to live on my own terms. It took me a long time to learn and understand what that meant, but if not for her I would have never understood it. She grew up in the depression and has always had a deep sense of self responsibility and at the same time a deep commitment to others.
She is small in stature but giant in grace. I instantly loved her the day I met her. So many people I know dread their in laws… but I won the lottery. She imparted her wisdom on me without ever even realizing it or knowing she had any. It’s been an honor to care for her in return for all of the years she’s cared for everyone else. She lives on her terms and her terms alone.
Being caught between the emotions of grief, love, understanding and heartache is a strange place to be. Sitting at her bedside listening as she reviews her life….. again an honor. As prepared as we are, we aren’t. But what helps the process is staying in the groove and allowing her to occupy the spaces in between. Car rides in silence, moments outside, miles in the woods, and a breeze that comes out of nowhere.
I have had people ripped from my life so many times that when it’s expected it is a gift in a strange way. The chance to say goodbye, the chance to be there for and the ability to allow the process to happen as it just needs to is beautiful and sad at the same time.
I think that each time we lose someone, regardless of who it is or how they leave us, it puts us into life review mode if we are lucky enough to be able to step back and take a good look at our lives. In my case it makes me constantly reevaluate if I am putting enough good into the world, because the world has certainly given me more than my fair share of good.
What can we do to help one another out more? What can we do to bring people together more? What can we do to make a small difference in this world?
Have I done enough to make an impact yet?
That’s what I take from this, and that’s what I try to get Luc to think about every day. Deep in the woods as we run together is where we are stripped down and free from clutter, able to explore our beliefs, dream our dreams and make assessments of our lives. It’s not my job to teach Luc who to be…. it’s my job to encourage him to explore that for himself. There is no parent manual for this…. Curt and I are completely winging it. We just want to guide him through this in such a way that he can build upon this experience as he moves forward as a human being. He will lose people in his life. And he will grow from those experiences.
The important part of life in my opinion…. is that we leave this place better. That we hold hands and walk together instead of one upping each other. That we do this with… instead of against. That we connect… instead of disconnect. That we live every single damn moment so completely that we forget what the next one is supposed to bring. That we let go of what it might look like to others, and embrace what it feels like. That we try so very hard to squeeze every moment out of every day, and to experience every single person 100%.
I know that every single day I gave as much as myself as it is possible to each person in my life and in my day. It doesn’t always flow like a beautiful piece of music. It’s usually a stutter, stumble, trip and a WHOOPS as I fall. But I don’t really care. Granny taught me that when it comes to living there are no rules to follow. In fact she taught me to say f*ck the rules. Step into every freaking minute fully. Completely. Sometimes it works great, other times I get broken. But that’s ok. It’s life.
As she slips further into her final sleep …. I feel so proud to have been her daughter in law. I am going to miss her like hell. The heartache comes with love. And it’s worth it.