Reflections on Life

Today’s event is called a Celebration of Ted, and what atmosphere could be more apt for him than a cheerful, inspirational, and uplifting event?

And while we’ve come here to celebrate the life of Ted Simon, we’ve also come here to mourn him, and to grieve for our loss. So how do we balance those two things? This effort to be happy, and the grief we all experience as we are mourning. We love sharing all things Ted, and our happy memories and lovely experiences we had with him come flooding to mind immediately. We’re comfortable laughing, and smiling, and singing… But we’re not always comfortable addressing the sadness we feel, and that imbalance can be very difficult to manage.

Mourning is our response to losing someone we love. We have tied this concept to feeling sad, and don’t really discuss it further, because we don’t like to talk about our emotions. Well, I probably talk about my emotions a bit too much, but in general, we don’t talk very much about how we really feel. So all we’ve got to hold onto is that grief equals sadness.

That’s too simple,

I want a new, personal definition of mourning, a new understanding that really fits the way I feel. Thinking that mourning is just sadness can make you feel isolated, and alone. So I’ll tell you what grief is to me. I’ll be honest about what I’ve felt, rather than say how I think I should feel — because if anyone else has had the same experiences, you’ll know you’re not alone.

Mourning is, in part, sadness.

It’s answering a phone call and spending the next three hours in bed, saying and doing nothing. It’s stopping to sit at a bench by the sidewalk to concentrate on holding back tears before you move to the next part of your day. It’s plunging yourself into that deep sadness, sitting alone in a room making yourself think of the milestones he will miss and how you can’t ever see him again, all in an effort to wring out all the sorrow you possibly can to allow yourself the chance to dry. It’s is a sunny day, where the birds are actually chirping and everyone around you is smiling and the whole world doesn’t seem to know that someone you love has died.

Mourning is also confusion.

It’s being angry that you’re so sad and distant while your friends or co-workers are happy, and then feeling guilty for being mad, as if it’s selfish to want to be happy. It’s losing track of your time, realizing you’ve skipped a meal a few hours later, or missing an appointment because you were lost in your thoughts. It’s trying to be positive when others need you to support them, and feeling fake and disingenuous the entire time. It’s pushing away the sadness, trying for hours at a time to be peaceful, and productive, and then feeling guilty again for having pushed those memories from your mind.

Mourning is also understanding.

It’s understanding the finality of the last moments and words you had the chance to share. It’s being comforted by knowing that you left saying “I love you.” It is reflecting on the advice and support and memories that you are left with, and appreciating their value in a new light. It is realizing that each time someone you know dies, it doesn’t get easier, but that you get stronger. It is seeing with new eyes the urgency of life, and applying your memories to each new task at hand.

Mourning is emotional and physical, it’s such a strong filter that it makes the whole world feels different.

So grief is not just another word for sadness. Grief is a process, grief is a story.

Ultimately, it’s the story of a changing relationship.

Your relationship with a person doesn’t disappear or evaporate when that person dies. It changes. It becomes more reflective, it becomes maybe deeper, perhaps because their death has made you evaluate exactly how the person influenced you.

I’m not someone who believes in an afterlife, or religious meanings behind life and death, nothing spiritual or supernatural. But I think that the relationship between two people is something that exists outside of those two people. There are friendships and romances and even rivalries from centuries ago that people still references as models and lessons for their behaviors.

In the days after I learned my papa had died, I would see older men walking down the street, or in the train station, or past the window, and I would for a split second see my Papa. And I think that means that even when I didn’t know I was thinking about my grandfather, I was thinking about him.

That’s a small way in which I can see that a person stays with us long after they’re living. I know that for every day of the rest of my life, I’ll be thinking about my papa. I see my papa’s love for his sons reflected in my dad’s love of my brother and me. I see my parents in love with each other, and it’s a reflection of my Papa’s love for my Nana. I hear my papa’s voice after I make a joke, and think of his values when I read about forty reviews before I buy anything, and making sure I’m getting the best deal.

I know that I loved my grandfather so much, and I love my grandfather so much.

And there’s no reason that that verb, that love has to be in the past tense.

The love I have for him, that doesn’t go away, that’s not something you can bury or cremate, or ever forget. And I know how important and how monumental that love is inside me, and how it’s a good part of who I am, that I’m built around that love, and how important he was in shaping the way that I love others. Knowing how huge that is for me, to multiply that by all the people in his life that he knew…

all the people with us today

all the people who wish they could be with us

all the people who are no longer with us

well, that’s something tremendous.

And it’s something I really can hold onto as a reason to stay hopeful — to see something positive to see the future. It can be so hard to see the future when something like this happens. But it is possible.

Know that your grief is personal, but it shouldn’t be lonely. We’re all going through that sadness, confusion, and understanding. Right now, our grief is a boulder we carry with us everywhere, something that might not allow us to feel happy, or engage in our lives. But as we come together to address our grief, we chip away at that boulder; by talking to loved ones about our feelings, seeking family and unity and togetherness in a time of distress.

Observing the way our relationships with Ted have all be irrevocably changed, and coming to terms with the transformation of our love for him, we can pare our grief down to the size of our palm. It always stays with us, sometimes in our hands, as we spend time to think about our loss, and others in our pockets, always present, but allowing us to move forward, keeping our love in mind.

We’ve lost Ted Simon, but we still have him in the stories we tell, the tears we shed, the jokes we share, and the Ted-shaped love we share with each other and the world every day. Nothing compares to having Ted in our lives, but we are all so lucky to have and share his love. And that love is the light to help us navigate our grief, together.

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