On Friday March 12th, 2021, my family and I along with some friends gathered at a funeral home in in Brooklyn NY to honor, remember and show our love to my brother-in -law. My late wife’s oldest brother and the last survivor of her family passed away after a battle with throat cancer. Our service was led by my friend an Episcopal priest and we prayed, sang, and recalled the life of a good man. We the mourners tried to find solace and hoped we could experience peace through our raw pain.
Ten months ago, in Upstate New York we remembered, honored, and showed our love to my wife Diane during her funeral service. Just as I thought I was slowly healing from the pain of my loss I was thrown back into the abyss of pain and sorrow one more time. As I entered the funeral home that follows Covid -19 protocol: temperature checks and hand sanitizing; I noticed, and I realized the fear that still holds all of us at bay from each other: a deadly disease that has taken too many lives and still prevents us from any sort of normal life.
Before I entered the chapel where my brother-in-law was reposing, I saw a family coming out of one of the other chapels overwhelmed by grief, tears, and cries of sadness as they exited the building. As the last person left, I watched not one, but two caskets wheeled to the side of the building. I asked one of the funeral directors what happened. He told me that two grandparents in their early seventies had died one day apart. They were victims of Covid -19. That family was facing double the pain, double the loss and double the sorrow. I shook my head in disbelief. My heart broke for each of them. I was with my family going through another death, another loss and again burying someone I loved. I could feel their pain.
As the minister conducted our service virtually through live stream I glanced around the room and saw my family and friends filled with pain and sadness. I kept saying to myself yes, we are sad; and yes, tears will flow but do not let grief blind hope and love. I heard it in the words spoken by the minister who told us look for the signs that Paul is still with us. A reminder to us that DEATH IS NOT THE VICTOR.
I wanted us to remember Paul not with numbness and silence that I saw in this chapel but joy, smiles and laughter.
I was honored to deliver his eulogy as I did for my wife 10 months ago. I consider it a love letter that I crafted allowing me to paint a picture of who the person was and how they enriched my life. I shared a couple of anecdotes about fun times we shared and how those memories will sustain me.
I also shared how Diane and Paul endured grief throughout their lives. Ernie the youngest brother died at age 30 in 1980. Both of their parents died at ages 63 and 68 respectively back in 1987 and 1988 several months apart. Diane’s oldest daughter, age 45, and Paul’s niece died in 2017. Despite these devastating loses they did not let grief destroy them. With each loss came the opportunity to celebrate a life by starting new traditions and hosting family gatherings and finding peace and solace through reuniting with other family members.
Despite loss Paul and Diane also lived life with joy, fun and laughter and they had soul mates who shared their love and continue to love them since love never dies.
Grief was a part of their lives as it is a part of my life but I will not let it control me.
Yes, Friday was tough day and Saturday was a little easier and I hope each day will be a little better.
Clair Austin a widow and a trained therapist who works as a trauma specialist helping children who have suffered loss wrote the following about grief:
“Grief is a true reflection of the magnificent intensity of being human”. What a beautiful image. To be human means to experience joy and sorrow, despair and hope, loss and acceptance and friendship and love. It is all part of being a human being. Let me take this a step further; to truly live and love means that someone you love will die. That is a hard pill to swallow. You and me to be fully human must learn how to continue to live, love and laugh. You can if grief is welcome at your table but not allowed to control who you are.
Tom Peyton has been an active member of the Widower’s Support Network since 5/17/20, following the death of his bride, Diane. He resides in upstate New York and can be reached via Facebook’s MESSENGER.