This morning I woke up thinking about my dad. It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the states, a holiday that honors those who gave their lives in active duty, and my dad was not only a veteran of the Korean War, but someone who was a passionate supporter of vets in his community.
Every year on Memorial Day, he’d remind us kids to acknowledge the men and women who served (and continue to serve) our country.
My dad was a proud veteran.
Memorial Day weekend also makes me think about those I’ve lost in general. As I remembered my dad this morning, I also thought about our cat Poupon, dear Louise Hay, and my best friend of more than 25 years.
Instead of feeling a pit in my stomach like I often do, I noticed something different, a bit of softness, an opening, and a willingness to linger on the beautiful memories without feeling the need to turn away.
This opening was inspired by an email I received from a reader just after Poupon died. I was in so much pain at the time and her words gave me hope and direction for my grief.
She told me that in order to feel Poupon’s presence, something I desperately longed for, I needed to open my heart. Now this would most likely be the opposite of what I’d be inclined to do, she said. After all, my heart was broken and my natural tendency would be to shut down in a feeble attempt to keep the pieces intact.
But it would be in opening my heart that I would feel his presence again in my life.
I’ve resisted her advice, but this morning I felt a shift. Instead of steering away from the memories, I thought of my dad singing Frank Sinatra songs and smiling as I gave him a manicure. I imagined Poupon walking up my body, plopping down on my shoulder, and gently kneading my arm before falling asleep. I remembered Louise licking a plate of raspberry sauce after enjoying a favorite dessert, her eyes twinkling like a mischievous little girl.
I can’t lie. I did feel the pain of these losses as I considered the memories because I’d love nothing more than to have them all back with me again.
But something wonderful happened as well. As I opened myself to our time together, I could feel the love seep in. I imagined it slowly filling the cracks in my heart making it stronger and wider and able to love even more deeply.
For the first time I felt a little more love than loss.
If you’ve lost someone – and we all will – I’m passing Diana’s wisdom on to you. Be gentle with yourself and slowly practice opening up to the good memories.
I have no doubt you’ll feel the love seep in, too.
P.S. – Join me for a Facebook Live session on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28th at 6pm EST/3pm PST. You can find me here.
P.P.S. – You can order my new book, Waking Up in Winter: In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife here.
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