In Memory of Lenae. My Thoughts
Unexpected death sucks. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. It stings… and the more you let someone in, or allow them to integrate into your world — the more it hurts when they are forcefully removed. It seems nice to me that old age allows that process to happen slowly. I shed little to no tears when any of my grandparents died — not because I didn’t love them, but because by the time they passed most of them seemed to be actually hoping for it. We all knew a better place awaited, and that moving across the threshold where they could transcend the limitations of old age would be a welcome event.
But like with my dad, here I am again facing the sudden death of someone I knew well. Someone I can say I loved — an old friend, a regular face at family events and my wife’s closest friend. There weren’t a lot of weeks that went by that I didn’t know Julene had been on the phone with her sister.
I first met Weed (Lenae) about 20 years ago when she was a junior in high school and started working at Pizza Factory with me and Jennifer. From the very beginning it was obvious she was a lamb through and through. Like her sisters and mother she was thoughtful and meticulous. But she was, and remained more passive than about anyone I knew. It almost seemed as if she lacked the ability to be mean, blunt or even stick up for herself. It’s not every day that you know someone who you actually wish would be meaner or more forceful once in awhile (and I was happy to see it when it ever did happen). If you knew Weed well, then you knew that if you or your kids did something rude, inconsiderate, thoughtless or anything that could even be perceived as negative toward her or around her, SHE would apologize to you about it happening. You constantly had to say “weed… no need to apologize… if anything I should be apologizing”.
Her lamb-like personality certainly made her easy to get along with. I don’t think there’s anyone who could not get along with Lenae. She was incredibly considerate and selfless. But I often worried at the toll such an empathetic personality took on a soul. What hurt builds up in the heart of one who takes most hurt or injustice onto themselves with little thought for just retribution or emotional equality? I guess this could be said of many of our mothers and wives. There were so many times that I sensed the pain which builds in a heart that constantly gives more than it receives. A heart that has come to habitually see the solution to emptiness as giving more. You certainly rarely heard her share her qualms in public; and even her closest confidants had great, great trouble getting her to open up and share her problems with any regularity. She preferred to help others to open up and then simply empathize. She loved to smile.
Like all her family, Lenae was a beautiful soul. Her personality has given, and continues to give me a lot to think about. I have no doubt that she is in a wonderful place. She gave more than she received — so she will now receive more than she gave. I’m grateful for her example as I try to harmonize and balance the passive vs. the assertive aspects of myself. Balancing Jesus the suffering servant with Yeshua/Messiah the conquering hero — Buddha vs. Muhammad. the tender lamb vs. the noble lion.
It's been interesting analyzing the emotions of this death. It’s been the first unexpected painful death since my dad died nearly 20 years ago (just months after I got to know Lenae). And it’s strange how the thoughts and emotions blend together. The waves of grief are like opening a door that has been shut tight for quite some time. Is the sorrow I feel for Lenae? Is it for her family, husband and kids? Is it for my dad? Is it for myself? Is there a difference? I remember when my dad died, I often wondered, “should I be hurting more?” Is the level of pain I feel somehow connected to how much I loved them? In hindsight the littleness of those distinctions becomes more clear.
On that first night of shock and numbness, Julene mentioned somewhat similar feelings to me and in retrospect I said that this kind of reasoning is like a pioneer feeling bad that they are not sore enough after the first day of what will be a year long journey… or a boxer feeling bad that they do not hurt enough after the first punch of what will be a painful twelve-round ordeal. Those who can unexpectedly lose a close family member and say after the first few years that they never felt like a voodoo doll who has been repeatedly stabbed in the heart unexpectedly and repeatedly for months and months on end, should simply consider themselves extremely fit and lucky. I think the pain (which truly can be like losing a part of yourself), is often proportional to the manner in which we integrated them into our brain’s very thought patterns. Or as I’m learning… a measure of our ability to empathize & remember.
For me — I am a wimp. I don’t enjoy crying … especially in public . But in private the tears can be hard to stop. Over the two years of being on my mission just after my dad died, I often felt dreadfully alone. I was generally happy, but the waves of emotion were like unexpected labor pains sucker-punching me in the gut — often when I least expected it. I grew so tired of them. I analyzed where they came from and was always baffled. The door would open, the bitter-sweet dagger would come through, and I would be left exhausted. I try to keep that door closed these days even though I have come to realize that this “portal” to pain is a window to unity. I’m sure that in the archetypal Garden, Christ metaphorically opened that same door — not just to take global pain upon himself — but to connect universally with all mankind in an act of unity which requires physically connecting to the pain, pleasure and experience of all individuals. An act which stands as a type and shadow of a threshold of nirvana & unity I believe everyone will eventually experience long after death as we pierce the eternal veils of personality, ego and separation which divide us all.
I’ve hurt a bit more than I would have expected with Lenae’s death. I’ve cried the kind of stinging tears that haven’t fallen from my eyes in a long while. I’m still a bit baffled as I try and analyse and track the source of this sorrow. Lenae was certainly a special friend and familiar part of our lives. But I suspect that these waves of emotion have more to do with the psychic connection of empathy which exists among the living than any mystical pain caused by the reality of death itself. It’s the pain of four children who must now grow up without their mother. The pain for a husband who will spend a considerable time drowning without his closest friend, wife and mother to his children. The pain for a sister who has lost her best friend and confidant. And the pain for parents who should never have to outlive any of their own children — parents, siblings and in-laws who will realize at every get-together that someone is missing. Thats a lot of pain — pain which hasn’t even been experienced or fully realized yet. But somehow this door that death causes to open in our hearts transcends time. When it opens all that will be experienced by multiple people comes through in an eternal now. And something about that type of pain is incredibly divine.
Lenae will be missed. I suspect that she is or will soon be in a place where she feels more connected to us all than she ever did in mortality. A place where she can intimately guide and help her children and family. But to those of us she left behind there will simply be a hole. One which no amount of hope, faith or spiritual knowledge can ever really fill (believe me, I’ve tried and tried!). As she ascends the mountain, we continue walking blindly but faithfully through the valley of the shadow…
And I guess that’s life, and that’s love.
So I’m thinking of what Sarah said….. “love is watching, someone die”.