The Encounter With Loss

I’ve much appreciated many expressions of sympathy and the promise of prayers this past week. The outpouring of support from my internet friends, as well as parishioners and my staff colleagues, has been very heartening.

My brother was a champion swimmer in high school. His state butterfly record stood for decades. My dad remarked that the butterfly was the most demanding of the competitive strokes. And I heard the family pride embedded in that statement. I approve of my brother’s later-life approach to swimming, as I heard it related from his stepdaughter and grandson. He was also a teacher. It wasn’t simply enough for a person to outpace others. The importance of bringing along the young, the inexperienced, the untutored: this was part of what Lynn also lived. There was not so much the loss of competitive swimming after high school, but allowing his expertise there to metamorphose for a different purpose.

My mind plays tricks. On the day of hearing the news, my rational side began making calls to family back in Rochester. But soon I worried that I had misheard the news. Had I just alarmed my family back East by overblowing what was just a serious traffic injury? I would drive across Iowa and find my brother holding court among family and friends in a hospital bed. I would be embarrassed for having sent up tragic false news.

I had a similar experience the May after my father died. My wife and I were at the mall, and I remarked I needed to get to the card shop to pick out something for my dad. Anita stopped for a moment and asked, what did I say? It took me another few seconds to realize my routine of selecting and sending a Father’s Day card was over. I would never send such an item again.

Needless to say, my first ears heard right, and my rational mind had taken over. Making calls. Driving carefully. Breathing in. Then out.

So the encounter with loss continues. My wife’s advice to be gentle with self this week is important. Rather than having two sides have a war within, I’ve opted to let the rational and the affective have a gentle exchange with one another. Not emotional enough? Ah, let’s sit with that a bit. Tearing up at the sound of particular music? Let’s sit with that, too. Even bothered by the relentless good words about my brother? That’s fine, too. People say what they need to say. My brother was not a perfect man. He didn’t have to be.

At the liturgy yesterday, I was heartened by the great congregational singing. That was an encounter with fullness, the fullness of hope we place with God, and trusting that, no matter what our loss, God fills.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Commentary, My Family, spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Encounter With Loss

  1. Joyce Donahue says:

    Todd – sorry to hear of your loss. I hope that your journey through grief will be accompanied by much support – and by faith. Almost 2 years after the death of my almost-fiance, I know that God never left me, even when I was so stunned and depressed that could not even form the thought to ask “why?” May you feel God’s arms around you. Praying for you and your family.

  2. This post is so generous Todd, even in your mourning, you come to share with us. That is how the Body is restored, bit by bit. Thank you for doing what you do.

    I love what you said about the singing. As we navigate the loss of my husband’s sister, a person vital to our own family here, I can really relate to what you say about the fullness of hope.

    God bless.

  3. crystal says:

    I’ve been thinking of you. Your post reminds me of when my mom died – trying to figure out how to feel and what to think was like maing a journey through an undiscovered country. I hope you guys will be ok.

  4. Jimmy Mac says:

    Those of us who are blessed with good congregatonal singing have learned with those who constantly kvetch about the music of the bad old days have forgotten: Psalm 100. If it isn’t a joyful sound – I prefer “noise” – then it is simply pretty pretense.

  5. Mike K says:

    Todd, the mind can play some weird tricks on you, can’t it? But it’s all part of the grieving process, and prayer (yours and ours – your colleagues’, your personal friends’, your internet friends’) will help you.

    It can’t help that the situation with Father Ratigan came to light just before your brother’s death. Be consoled by the fact that the Lord does not give us more that we can bear, and while your cross may be very heavy right now, the fact that you’ve been given such a heavy cross says so much about the strength of your faith.

    Remember the poem “Footprints in the Sand”? The Lord is carrying you, Anita and Brittany during this most difficult time. May He continue carrying you as you go forward through the crooked road of this journey on the way to His kingdom.

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