Here it is...another first holiday after losing a loved one. We made it through a birthday, Thanksgiving, and now here's Christmas. The Big Dog. The holiday that packs the biggest punch to my heart. My husband and I were going over our Christmas list and I said, "Okay, so we have Corey, Ethan, Hanna, Holly and Jak..." No Jake. Jake passed away in March. My Christmas list looks horribly emaciated with four letters missing. J-A-K-E. The letters are still here, so why can't he still be here? It's not fair.
Last year I gave him a floor mat that read, "Caution: Nietzsche May Be Right." I explained the meaning behind it. Maybe life is only perception. Maybe none of it is real because it's all at the mercy of our perception. Jake agreed and said, "Yeah, totally. Kind of crappy for the people though that see everything all negative and bad. You know, like they never catch a break and nothing is good enough. Like, they should just change it, you know? It's not that hard."
It was a great conversation, but a mat? That was my final gift to him? A fucking floor mat? How embarrassing. If I knew it was my last gift, I would have handcrafted a monument in marble or something magnificent. Something unforgettable, so he won't forget me.
Anyway, Christmas marks the last time I hugged him. I will never hug him again and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.
I don't handle lack of control well, so I'm a counter. It's an OCD thing I do when I lose control. It's how I exert my pitiful amount of tiny control over the situation. And when Jake passed away, I was left with no gas pedal, breaks, or steering wheel.
So I counted, starting with the first week back in March when he passed away:
"Last week he had breakfast, lunch, and dinner like the rest of us."
"One month ago, he called to chat about the philosophy of life."
"He was here six months ago, but now he's not."
"I hugged him one year ago."
Tick, "He was here."
Tock, "He's not here anymore."
Tick, "I want to hug him."
Tock, "I can't hug him ever again."
I try to pick through the devastation to make sense of this. I can't begin to answer why our loved ones die, but I do know what ripples out to the rest of the world when it happens. When people heard my sister lost her son, I guarantee everyone hugged their children extra hard when tucking them in that night.
When a friend of mine lost her sister in a car crash, I called both of my sisters and told them I love them. When my friend's father passed away, I called my dad and told him I loved him and explained that the world feels safer to me just because he is in it with me. When my friend's husband had a brain tumor removed, I grabbed my husband's hands and told him that he is my favorite person in this entire world.
Gratitude happens when loved ones pass away. It washes over people and softens their hearts. That can be beautiful. Maybe Nietzsche (and Jake) was right. Maybe perception can help us deal with heartache. I'm going to try this one on for size: If one person leaving this world inspires a hundred people to reach out and express love and gratitude to their loved ones, then maybe this world is left a little better. That's quite a gift.
It never feels fair that our loved one is the one that had to leave, but maybe we can mold our perception to help move us through the pain. Maybe we take a moment to honor the ripple effect they have on the rest of the world and notice that others are reaching out and appreciating each other.
I'm going to give it a go and see what happens. A little golden thread to pull me through what I'm anticipating to be an incredibly difficult day. He left the world a little more loving and grateful. That's quite a gift. Better than any floor mat I've ever seen.