Sunday, November 1, 2015

Grief and the Chaplain

Marie Elizabeth Sebastian Meyer
Damnit.  I really wanted to pretend this never happened.  I was doing fine until I saw a post by my niece, Sharon.  A silly meme with words of love and loss. And then the tears started and my gut lurched as reality danced in front of me.  Since the beginning of the month, I have successfully pushed my grief to the side, kidding myself that I was somehow immune to it.  Maybe I tried to treat this as I would the loss of one of my patients.  “Interested not invested” as a former teacher would chant.

Idjit.  I am completely invested because this is family.

My lovely, saucy, funny niece Marie died in late September.  A vibrant wife, mother of two, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, coworker, niece - she died at the age of 48 from leukemia.  She fought so hard to live, to see her children hit their milestones, to be at her nephew’s wedding, to laugh with her sisters and brother, to do household projects with her husband, but the disease had a timeline of it’s own.

I flew to Chicago to officiate at her memorial service - one of her last requests.  I would have flown there regardless to be with family in such an awful moment.  To mourn together. I hadn’t been to Chicago in forever it seemed.  Brothers were older.  Great nieces and nephews were grown.  Childhood friends reflected my own aging. And yet they were the same people who I remembered and loved and got impatient with and needed.  When I boarded the plane to return to Oregon, perhaps I thought I could leave all this nastiness in Illinois.

Grief spares no one, not even board certified chaplains.  The waves will continue as I well know.  Shoot, this is the same speech I give families everyday.  But in the midst of the hurt, it appears I need to be reminded.

Damnit.  I really want to pretend this never happened.  Love you, Marie.

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