The Year of Loss

I’ve thought long and hard about what I should write – or even if I should write about this topic. Sitting down and applying words to deep emotion is tough. Yet loss is an inevitable part of being human. We collectively all experience it – even if it often feels very abstract and distant. But this year the concept of “loss” became plainly real for me and my husband. This year has been the year of loss.

An End of An Era

Yesterday my husband’s mom was put to rest. She was 96 when she passed last month. And with her it feels as if an entire era is crashing down around us. She was a very special person. She was cut from a clothe that is almost unrecognizable in today’s modern society. Truly, one of the last of her kind.

What made my Mother In Law special has nothing to do with the fact that she never used a computer, never had a drivers license or that she worked all the way up until she was 75 (at which point she took a “soft” retirement and continued to clean houses for women younger than herself). These anecdotes are just a glimpse into the character of my Mother In Law. Instead, it was her mindset. Her world view. The paradigm that shaped her and how she interacted with those around her that made her unique.

She was both tough, yet almost childlike in innocence. She was stubborn, yet displayed the most extreme patience I’ve ever witnessed when it came to family. Indeed, she cherished her family and fiercely loved every single one of her kids – sometimes to a fault. I knew the moment I met her, that she was special. I don’t know if I will ever meet another women like her. For me, her passing marks an end of an era.

One Tough Cookie

My Mother In Law never really had a “soft” life. And the deep creases on her face and the gnarled hands were proof of the physically challenging and furious pace she attacked life. She was one tough cookie. I remember the time my husband and I had to chide her because she climbed through the kitchen window after she locked herself out of the house. At the time she was 85. She stood on a wobbly chair to lift herself into the high window which sat over the sink. There was so many things that could have gone wrong! Yet, she made it through fine. She was rueful about her independence. Often, she would simply brush off our concern as silliness. “What do you think I am? An invalid?” she would quip at us.

My mother in law didn’t bother complaining about the bumps in life. She found simple pleasures in a good meal with family. She love sweets. She adored her little dog and ultimately was her happiest when those around her were happy. In our often narcissistic world, this was incredible to see and has inspired me to embrace the little pleasures this life has to offer.

Loss in Multiples

It would be tough enough to have just lost my Mother In Law this year. But her passing has been a capstone on a long, difficult year. In January my father passed. I can’t effuse about him like I can with my Mother In Law. But I can say that regardless of my relationship with him, it still was painful.

Not much later we said goodbye to our dog of 17 years in June. That still very much stings. It’s hard to keep my face from contorting when thinking about him. Our dog was a staple in our marriage and rounded out the family dynamics. A big hole remains which I don’t know how to fill. And another dog simply won’t do – my dog wasn’t just any dog and the idea of swapping in a replacement repels me right now.

In August we then said goodby to our favorite hen, SweetPea. My husband texted me to let me know while I was on a flight home (he later shared he consternated over this decision, but he knew I would want to know right away). SweetPea was the product of bad genetics and found herself on a constant rollercoaster of bad molts. In the months that lead up to her death, her comb and wattle turned pale and her normally chipper personality gave way to a new diminutive one. We knew she wasn’t well. I cried on that plane ride, frustrated by yet another loss.

Moving Forward

Any singular one of these events would be difficult. But cumulatively it feels as if the pain is exponential. I vacillate between keeping a stiff upper lip, unadulterated frustration and shameless wallowing. Usually I don’t cry. The pragmatic internal voice in my head typically overrules my behavior. But lately a shrieking, tantrum-throwing little girl has been shouting over Ms. Pragmatic: This isn’t fair!!! God sucks, the universe blows and karma can go shove it.

Standing in the shower a few days ago I just gave in and let myself experience the emotions coursing my veins. Big tears mixed with soapy suds and water droplets. My shoulders dropped and I felt my whole body shudder.

Stepping out of the shower I took a deep breath and wrangled back control of my body from the tantrum-throwing child inside. I gave myself permission to gently cry a little more and moved through my evening routine. Habits are soothing at times like these. After I finished, I shifted my thoughts to the future. While this year has been a year of loss, it has also been a good year in many ways. I was able to successfully navigate career shifts, we completed a number of critical house projects (so we can sell) and most importantly, we finally found our new home for Humblebee Farms after a multi-year, multi-state search. The future offers promise, even if the now is heard to deal with.

So perhaps instead of labelling 2019 as a Year of Loss, I should re-brand it the Year of Transformation. Because that is what this is. A year that is deeply inscribed in the history of my individual life and undoubtedly will impact the path forward.