First loss

Funny how vintage songs on the radio will jar your memory, taking you back to a period of time, if not particular scenes.

Some ’70s song came on yesterday and whenever I hear it, I’m reminded of when my family’s first cat died. This song was on when my parents broke the news to me and my brother that the family cat got run over. I can still see us running around the house, yelling and crying and absolutely consumed in our grief.

My dear parents surely consoled us with hugs and words, but if my most vivid memory is of running wild in grief, it meant that they allowed us time and space to have our sadness, in whatever form.

Digression: Remind me to tell you the story of the time my dad and I buried the wrong cat.

A wise person once advised of someone enduring hardship: “Give them the gift of their pain.” We outsiders can’t fix it. We can encourage, soothe, pray, bear witness. But we cannot change it, minimize, gloss over or deny it. Grief knows where it comes from, and where it will go. Next time you feel the need to run around your house screaming in grief, do it.

A new adult education class at our church will be based on the book “Praying Our Goodbyes” by Joyce Rupp. We’re focusing on this, in part, because many of us just said goodbye to our priest of 13 years. Whole groups of people, like congregations, grieve.

Rupp’s thesis: You can become whole again, after huge losses, but you do so by paying attention and going into the heart of it. Saying goodbye is both a one-time event and a process.

Becoming whole doesn’t mean forgetting. I have never forgotten my first big loss–the loss of the family cat. It doesn’t mean that it has the power over me it once did. But I always manage to remember when I hear the song.

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