Grief: A Process That Concludes With Obligation

It has been a period of 2 1/2 years since I started to lose the people I love most in my life at an alarming rate.  It started slowly and then turned into an avalanche.  There were days that I was afraid to check email, check Facebook, or answer the phone for fear that yet another person who helped shape me into who I am today had departed for the “next part of the journey.”

As I sit in my family room this evening writing this I realize that it is the night before Band Day and I should be posting some awe-inspiring message to the UDMB and whomever else takes time to read my blog.  Time to get excited about tomorrow; time to get revved up to WOW the high school and middle school bands; time to get totally energized about blowing the stands back 50 yards with a complete show.  And yet, I am not going to write about that.  The UDMB will be OUTRAGEOUS tomorrow—that is simple fact.

I started to wade through all the posts on FB about one person in particular as well as all the photos people have extracted from cardboard boxes that have been scanned in and posted as profile pictures and cover pictures.  I, too, joined the proverbial band wagon and changed my photos to represent the week: a week of honoring a man who taught us to love what we do, love each other and love ourselves with complete and total abandonment.  In two days it will be the second anniversary of the passing of George Parks—a man who inspired tens of thousands of young men and women; a music educator, conductor, and performer (tuba and drum major) of the highest caliber; a truer friend many of us were blessed to have, and will never see the likes of again.  I look at everything, read all the status updates, comments, quotes, etc., and I have come to what may be a rather hard and harsh conclusion…..we have not moved on.

When my mother passed away 18 months ago I learned a lesson at her funeral, one that I had never learned before in all my years of Hebrew school and going to synagogue.  After hearing what the Cantor had to say, I did an enormous amount of reading and asked many questions of many rabbis.  Everything pointed to and confirmed what the Cantor said as he and I and family stood by my mother’s grave:

“Grief is a process–but when the year of mourning has concluded Judaism teaches us that our primary obligation is not to the dead.  It is to our self, to our community and to life. We are obligated to live.”

This lesson cut me to the core because it is so logical, so pure.  It is one thing to honor those who have passed.  It is entirely something else to remain stuck in the past; trying to relive the glory days; wishing our loved ones were still here with us in the physical realm.  It is a mitzvah to honor those who have departed–it is a sin to not move forward and live our lives as they would want us to.

Two years ago today I spoke to my dearest friend for the last time.  I wished him well and told him to have a great time while he took his band to “the big house”–Michigan.  He chuckled and we spoke a few minutes longer as there was much to discuss but it was not the time.  He said, “We’ll talk when I get home, ok?” I responded, “Of course.”  …but we all know how that story ended.

Many people would still, after two years, wish to G-d things had ended differently.  Many people would still want answers to their questions.  Many people would still be angry about being “robbed” of a soul so precious to all of us.  But not me.

I no longer have questions. I no longer want answers. I am fulfilling my obligation to move forward — for isn’t that what the grasshopper really is folks?  It’s not George–don’t be daft!  It’s symbolic of tremendous leaps of faith, jumps in progress and consistent forward momentum (research Native American Medicine).  I choose to honor my loved ones who have passed and hope for only two things when it is my turn to follow them:

1) I want to walk into a house filled with all my family, friends and pets.  I want to see everyone around a giant table of food and hear my mother say, “Well, it’s about time.  Sit down and eat something already!”

2) After the meal I want to walk onto the first tee of a golf course and be greeted by a smile and a nod from a red-headed man who proceeds to drive his opening tee shot 250 yards.  I want to then tee up my own ball and match his drive….and then hear Darrell Weyman say, “George hits a good shot; Heidi hits a good shot.” To which we both will say, “Shut up Darrell.”

That’s all.  Godspeed.

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