For most of my life Memorial Day had been a day to honor those service men and women who died in service to our country, the official start of summer and a day for cookouts and picnics. That all changed on Memorial Day May 29, 1995. That day, about 11 AM, Sheriff’s Deputies arrived to tell Kathy and me that our 25-year-old son, Lance, was killed in a motorcycle accident.
Most bereaved parents know how the story goes from here – shock, disbelief, denial, grief, fog, anger etc. Thankfully Kathy dragged me to the local Compassionate Friends meeting and for the next couple of years I was in the care and comfort of those more experienced grievers.
One day I realized that I was one of those experienced grievers and had some responsibility to help others on this journey that no parent wants to take. So, over the years, that responsibility played out on a local level and then with the national organization.
One day I realized I had nothing left to give. I was too far down the line to be relevant for the newly bereaved and staying involved in the world of grief was not something I felt I was called to do. So, I quit.
Quitting doesn’t mean I don’t think about Lance, Scott or Erin. Quitting doesn’t mean that I didn’t love them or miss them or wish the situation was different. Quitting doesn’t mean that the sadness doesn’t return occasionally. Quitting simply means that I had reached the point that others refer to as “it takes as long as it takes”.
You probably noticed that I have been vague about the specific timing of my journey. That is intentional for I continue to believe that everyone’s journey is different and the timing of my transitions may not be right for every reader. You need to work through it at your speed.
The operative words here are “through it” which strongly implies there is an end. It is easy to stay wrapped the warm embrace of those well-intentioned seasoned grievers and professionals who are an important part of recovery and reinvestment. But, at least for me, the perpetual grief industry, with its grief cruises and grief camps, is not my end game.
So, this Memorial Day 2017, at least for this bereaved dad, is less about grief and more about the brave men and women who gave all, summer, cookouts, picnics and the positive things in my life.