A Gift from Cathy

I was sorting through my dresser drawers recently and found a pair of threadbare socks I've owned for many years. The socks were black and red, and sported a pair of Canadian maple leaves on each one. I noted the holes in the socks' heel areas and decided to pitch them in the trash. They had served me well for many years, but it was time to let them go to make room in my overcrowded sock drawer.

Almost immediately after tossing the socks in the trash bin, I started crying. At first I had no idea why I cried. The tears simply came, seemingly unbidden. Instead of squelching them, as the old me might have done, I decided to roll with the emotion driving the tears and see where it led me.

Those red and black socks. Maple leaves. Ah...then I remembered. The socks had been part of the first Christmas gift I'd received from a friend who had passed away shortly after my accident.

A gift from Cathy.

I cried off and on the rest of that day, allowing myself to remember her and the times we spent together: holidays in Moab; crewing for my favorite mountain bike racer at the time (my then-husband who was also her son); discussing the nature of life and relationships; hiking in the mountains with our dogs; teaching me rock climbing; the last letter she sent to me just a few weeks before she passed away; watching her read stories to her grandchildren; a smile that would light up the darkest and gloomiest of moods. So many wonderful memories of an amazing woman who I won't see again on this plane of existence.

I felt waves of deep gratitude for having had the privilege of knowing Cathy in this life.

Some people might assume that those of us who have had a near-death experience wouldn't feel grief anymore, that we know what comes after this life is amazing and so we don't feel a sense of loss. For me, nothing could be further from the truth. 

The me that is here on Earth now is still a human, and being human, I still feel the pain and grief of missing someone just as anyone else might. My grief is modulated now, though, meaning that because I know there is more than just this life, my grief doesn't emotionally paralyze me as it might have just a few years ago.

Here's an example: when my father passed away in November of 2000, I didn't cry at all for over nine months. His death paralyzed me emotionally. I refused to believe that the man I knew was gone, FOREVER. I blocked his death out of my mind and heart for many months because I just could not fathom his being gone. Back then I was an atheist, so I saw his death as the final chapter in a relatively brief and unhappy life. My inability to handle his loss paralyzed me for well over two years. And two years after my father's passing, my oldest sister died in a horrible car accident a couple of days before Thanksgiving. I was just climbing out of a pit of grief from my father's passing and fell right back into it grieving for my sister.

Thank goodness that things don't work like that anymore for me.

While I do grieve now, and allow myself to grieve, in some ways it's a much more positive and healthy thing. I remember the good times. I marvel at the ups and downs of life, not forgetting that what comes after we pass on is even more incredible than life on Earth. I think about the person who's passed on and am very grateful for the things I learned from him or her, knowing that she or he is still with me in a very real, spiritual sense.

In a way, any grief I feel now is something of a gift back to the person who's left this plane of existence. She or he has touched my heart and my life, and any tears I shed are a testament to my love and respect.

Copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015. You may link to this page, but do not copy or reproduce any content without my written permission.