I knew the day would come, that I would attend my first funeral since that of Michael's. I often wondered what the situation would be, and why I would chose to put myself in such a place. After all, people would understand, right?
Maybe it was because of the type of loss, that I felt moved to do so. Maybe it was because I didn't really know those in pain too well. Maybe because I did know those so closely affected by the loss that I felt moved to stand among them.
It's very hard to understand why people are taken from this earth at such early times. Of course, "taken early" is such a relative term. When Michael was taken, that is what I felt. When people made comments to me, that is what they said. Yet, when you see the pain of those left behind, I suppose that any age is considered too soon.
In this case, it was too soon for my mind, and heart, to understand. At least with Michael, I could say that he lived a life full of many adventures. He lived, and traveled all over the world. He touched the lives of people on many continents. And although I don't know the type of pain Michael's mother necessarily felt, having to say goodbye to her adult son, I tell myself that at least she got to see him grow into such a wonderful man. She got to feel the pride of watching him achieve so many of his goals and dreams. And, she got to walk him down the isle, and marry a man who loved him dearly.
Friday's funeral was for one much younger. Friday's funeral was for a child, only 21 months.
Not long before starting my present job, a young woman from my office left to concentrate on raising her two boys, and focus on higher education. I know of her because she is very much loved by the friends I have made in the office. And although I haven't had the opportunity to socialize with her, her name, and those of her husband, and two young boys, come up in conversation all the time. There have been a few times when she has visited the office, once with her baby boy, and we were able to meet. Each time since that initial meeting, we both smile and greet each other. It's a smile of knowing that we share a friend, one that we both enjoy, and find emotional support from.
When I learned of her child's sudden death, it brought such sorrow to my heart. For one, I know loss, and for another, I could to see the pain it caused in those close to her. After the funeral there was a social gathering in a nearby hall. I sat with friends from the office, and spoke quietly with them. When it was time to leave, I took a deep breath, and found the courage to walk up toward her. Part of me didn't want to see that familiar look in her eyes. Part of me didn't want to see how burdened she would be with her grief. Yet, I knew that I had a gift to offer her, and that was the knowing.
I don't know the pain of losing a child, but I know the pain of having your heart torn apart. I know that look of trying to make sense of something that is beyond us. I know that darkness that must be walked through.
I walked up to her, and saw myself in her. It was a face I know so well.
A gentle embrace.
I'm here if you need someone who knows.