Most of you are aware that my nephew died last year as a result of a terrible car accident. His death was a devastating blow to our family. He was a young man who had a lot of living yet to do. Even though more than a year has passed, we are all still reeling.
Our first visit to his grave-site after the headstone was placed was an emotional experience for us all. It is a beautiful monument at a great location. It is a massive gray stone quarried from India, delicately carved and carefully shipped to the United States. It was selected by his mother and father after many hours of deliberation. It is a beautiful memorial that honors Alex’s short life.
As a Pastor, I had the opportunity to counsel so many families who experienced the difficulty of a family loss. Whether it was a mother, a wife, a husband or child, I offered words of wisdom hoping to ease the family’s pain. Little did I know how true these words would prove to be in my own life.
From the comfort of my office or the quiet room at the funeral home, I would explain to the grieving family that they could expect “triggers” for their memories. Some times these could be painful. Other times they might be joyful. They will always be surprising. Maybe it is a song that takes you back to an evening dancing. It might be the smell of her favorite perfume. It could be the color of the setting sun that takes you back to that same sunrise you watched the day he died. These memory reminders are a wonderful gift that keeps the loved one alive in our hearts and minds.
I never dreamed that these “triggers” would be so active in my own life.
The morning of the Alex’s wreck, I stopped and took pictures of a sunrise that is still one of the most unusual cloud formations I’ve ever seen. There isn’t a morning that I drive past that spot that I don’t think of that photo shoot and the evening phone call that came when we were notified of the accident.
My daughter and I drove past a herd of deer dancing and playing together on a morning in late April of last year. We were driving back from the school when we spotted the deer. She had been in Washington, D.C. when the wreck happened and we had yet to tell her about her cousin’s serious condition. We drove past that same field this morning and we looked for those deer and we found ourselves in the same emotional place we had been a year ago.
It can be anything: A movie, a song, family reunions, holidays, or shot-guns…they all bring back a memory of my nephew. I am amazed that it never gets easier.
You’ve probably been there yourself. You’ve suffered your own painful loss. You discovered the shocking memories that come flooding back because of the song on the radio or the evening news. You’ve lived the strange, sad, almost cruel experience of crying while driving because your memory is stirred by nothing particular.
You’ve been there. And you know that it never gets easier. A flip through the photo album moves you just as strongly today as it did last year. An empty chair at the table makes swallowing dinner even harder. It isn’t easy but you find strength in friends. You find peace in the presence of God’s quiet voice. If you are lucky, you have family who are there to walk with you along the journey and to stand beside you at the finely carved stone at the head of the grave.