Monday, March 05, 2018

An outpouring of support

Life is a teacher, and losing someone close to you is yet another lesson.

I snapped at my children before getting into the car to attend my brother's wake. I was nervous as I didn't know what to expect or how I would react.

When we got to the small funeral home in Worcester, a place where we had congregated before to celebrate the lives and grieve the deaths of so many beloved family members in the past, I noticed the wonderful picture boards my nephew created--boards that told the story of my brother's life. I also read a beautiful letter written by my brother's best friend--a true testament to the essence of friendship. After that there were prayers, and then people began pouring in--friends, family members, colleagues one by one moved through the receiving line telling stories and simply being present to console us, show their support, and mourn with us. I was surprised at just how much better I felt thanks to the support of so many--this long held ritual of a wake made sense and held meaning at such a sad time.

Later, as has been our lifelong tradition at times like these, we gathered at my mother and father's home to share a meal and tell stories. Close family members were there, and that felt good too. Today we'll gather again for the funeral services; then tomorrow most of us will return to our day-to-day routines. I must say that I am looking forward to that and will view daily life with a bit more reverence after this roller coaster hiatus of sadness and unexpected emotions and events.

As with any new learning, I find a surge of humility too. How many times have I missed an opportunity to write a simple note, show up, or display acknowledgement or support in other ways for friends, family members, and colleagues who have faced a challenge, lost a loved one, or experienced a tragedy? How many times could I have done more?

Yet, on the other hand, there are definitely times when you have the time and support to give, and times when the demands of your own life are so great that you need all the energy and time you have to do what's essential for your own children, close family members, work and self. That's why it is essential to give when you can, and don't worry, when you can't. If we all do that, there will be enough positivity and goodness to go around.

I contemplated whether I should share these intimate details of my experience of my brother's death for many reasons. First, all of my brother's friends and family members will each experience his death differently depending on where they are in life. With this in mind, I want people to know that I recognize this and don't expect others to feel about or experience his passing exactly as I am experiencing this. Next, I know that everyone experiences loss all the time, and it's not an experience that I own with regard to my thoughts. For that reason, I don't expect people to read this post or agree with it--this is an education blog, and to write about death is somewhat of a detour, yet a detour I feel moved to describe. In the end, however, I decided to write the post so that I won't forget how valuable, meaningful, and critical it is for us to be there for one another, and how an outpouring of support and kindness truly elevates how everyone feels and what we can do for one another.

When I go back to school, I'll remember this life lesson and use it to care for my students and colleagues with greater love and grace. This is a great gift, one I am grateful for.