Yesterday, my friend showed me something.
Two weeks ago her mother-in-law passed away. My friend has been grappling with mourning her death because she struggled with dementia for twelve years. The last six years, her mother-in-law has been unresponsive. She has been unable to swallow properly for the last year. Everyone prayed for her to let go and release this life.
After her passing, my friend struggled with sadness. She questioned the lack of interest that those who knew her mother-in-law had over her passing. She was angry, not just over this, but over everything that she felt like was wrong in her life. It felt like the waves of anger were just covering up a deep sadness.
“She was a part of their lives for so many years. They didn’t even say they were sorry for the loss. If nothing else, this woman’s life mattered,” she said tearfully as well talked at length about her. It felt like she needed to do that too. When people are sad, it feels like water behind a dam. Sometimes when I speak with people, it allows the sadness to flow out. Letting some of the pressure of sadness become words alleviates the side effects of sadness: primarily anger.
“Maybe you have to stop and mourn the life of this woman who mattered to you. She mattered to you and she sure and hell mattered to her son. Let that be enough. Let the fact that she mattered to your family be the part that you mourn. I person doesn’t have to matter to a number of people to be mourned. The number of people who experience sadness over the loss of your life does not give that life more validity.”
This seemed to help at the moment, and my friend went about her day.
Yesterday, she came into my classroom.
“I have to show you something,” she said. She pulled her phone out her pocket. “So photos are in chronological order in your phone, right?” I nodded. “So I was going through my pictures the other day, and in the middle of these pictures,” she showed me the chronological time stamp of a series of photos taken in the last few days, “there is a picture of my mother-in-law. I took this photo a month ago.” Staring at me from my friend’s phone was a female face of a woman I had never met, but she was smiling. It was a photo of a photo from my friend’s wedding. She had taken it weeks before as she was getting ready for the collage she was creating for her mother-in-law’s funeral. “And now look. This photo I took two years ago, and now it follows this one at the front of my photos from recently. This isn’t possible, right? Photos can’t move in your albums without your moving them.”
“Holly,” I responded, “I don’t think you can move them even if you want to. She got into your phone,” I smiled. The photo that was moved to follow the photo of her mother-in-law was one of her husband and their little boy. It was a sweet picture of them snuggling together.
“And look,” she continued, “the time stamp on when the picture was taken has changed. It now reads January 31st at 5:22 am. I was asleep at that time. I wasn’t even awake.”
“Does 5/22 have any significance?” I asked.
“It’s Ryan’s birthday,” she said. I smiled again.
“She telling you that she is here. She is telling you that she knows what’s going on. That’s awesome.” I answered. She smiled.
“Well, remember when you told me it was okay to be sad? You said that I needed to be sad about her passing, and I took your advice. I sat with it.” My friend looked at me sadly. “She always liked me,” she said.
“Of course she did,” I answered. “She loves you.”
Love and Light, My Friends…and remember, passing on does not mean that people are no longer with us. They are still here, just not in the ways we expect.