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Posts Tagged ‘Family’

The Things We Save

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

I recently participated in a 14-day writing project focusing on one word or phrase. The word “home” has been on my mind. My sisters and I have been going through our childhood home the past few months in order to clean it out. Most of our weekends have been spent packing and wrapping, tossing and filling boxes for donations. It’s been very emotional. As I come across various photos and old objects, I found myself laughing and crying. This is the home I grew up in. It’s the home my mom and dad raised their family in. And gathered with friends in. And welcomed strangers. So much of my mom and dad are still in this home. There are so many memories and collections of belongings that fill “289.” As my sisters and I go through closets and dressers, cabinets and clutter, it has been difficult discerning the treasures from the trash.  We often must look at some items a few times to decide what to keep or give away. We angst over things to toss or take.

I don’t always know the meaning of things my parents kept – some of it was just for sentimental reasons; some of it was passed on from their family; and some of it was saved as gifts to pass on to their daughters. As I look through the stuff in the house, I often feel like none of it belongs to me. And yet, I feel like my parents wanted us to feel their legacy through the things they saved. Every photo, every piece of Irish crystal, every teacup, every vinyl record is their way of passing down their stories, their dreams, and their hopes of a better life for their daughters. Perhaps we won’t have to struggle as much as they did.

This was more than a house my family lived in. This was a place full of love and loss. This was my home. And it always will be. I don’t always know the meaning of the things they saved. I only know the things they saved help me remember them. My heart is grateful for the things they saved.

Home is more than a place of arrival and departure. It’s a journey. It’s finding our home again and again. And it’s an outreached arm, saying, “Welcome Home.”

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Sorry for Your Troubles

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Streams of my father’s friends came into the funeral home to honor him and share their condolences. Many walked up to me and extended their hand and said, “Sorry for your troubles.” I couldn’t really understand at first what they were saying. As the line grew longer and longer, many folks told me how they met my father, shared a story, and ended with their condolences, “Sorry for your troubles.”

I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of people who came to my father’s wake and repeatedly hearing the words sorry for your troubles. I came to learn that the expression is used all over Ireland. As the poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama writes, “It comes directly from an Irish phrase, yet Irish has no word for ‘bereavement’ – the word used is ‘troiblóid’. So the phrase would be better translated ‘Sorry for your bereavements’.”

It was quite powerful seeing his wake filled with long-time friends and neighbors all sharing in our loss. Grief felt beyond expression – beyond words. Sorry for your troubles gave space to my inner experience of grief. The expression felt bigger than a condolence message. It felt like an acknowledgement of the enormity of losing a parent, especially someone like my father who was so loved and touched so many lives.

As the author, Liz Gilbert, says, “Grief is not an interruption of your life, but a braided-into-your soul aspect of it. We weep and we continue.” My experience of grief is that it brings me to my knees. It reminds me of how much I love and long for the connection that existed. And I am also reminded of how hard it can be for people to express their condolences or to know that grief lasts a lot longer than the days following a funeral. I know it can feel overwhelming to reach out to check in on grieving friends after time has passed after their loss. And it’s as overwhelming being the one experiencing grief.

Bearing the effects of losing a loved one takes more than weeks or months. It’s an everyday experience where sometimes grief feels heavy and other times grief inspires more love. The most important part is showing up, expressing your condolences (calls and cards are wonderful), sitting with those in grief; and if you don’t know what to say, you can always hold their hand, wipe their tears, and say, “Sorry for your troubles.”

This is dedicated to my beloved father, Ted Flanagan, who passed away on September 6, 2018.

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