On Tuesday, November 5, 1985, my life and the way I think of goodbye changed, forever.
Over the last few weeks, I have watched close people in my life suffer through losing people close to them.
I have been affected.
Loss is a trigger to reflect and go deep within yourself. And even though it may not be your loss, you can’t help but be affected watching people that you love go through it, as you are with them on their journey, witnessing their feelings and playing a supporting role.
I bring up this day, back in 1985, because it happened 4 days before my first loss. It was the thought that I had on that particular November 5, which resonated with me and changed me.
I was 11 years old and in 5th grade. Up until that week, the only loss that I had ever endured was the passing of our family dog, Beetle, the year before.
It was election day, and my father always worked at the polls. Like most election days, my mother would go up and vote, after supper. We were still young, so it was my grandfather, Gag, who came up to the house that night and watched us while my mother was voting.
Up until that night, hugging my grandparents on their arrival and departure was something that I never consciously thought about, just did. We were always so happy to see them and then prompted to give hugs goodbye when they left. It was the routine.
But on that night, a very significant thought popped into my head (for the very first time in my life) as I stood in the doorway of our family room, and bid my grandfather goodnight.
The thought was, what if I never see him again? What if something happens to Gag and he dies?
I remember clearly, my grandfather sitting on the couch with my sister, Laura, reading her a book, while this thought ran through my mind, so quickly–yet deliberately, weaving its thread of melancholy and panic through my young psyche.
And for that reason, and that reason only, I decided NOT to give him a hug, when I said goodnight that night. It was my way of shirking off the very odd thought that had randomly popped into my head. I think I was hoping it would go away, as quickly as it came.
Instead, to stubbornly push the awful thought from my mind, I chose to stand in the doorway, and say, “Night, Gag.” I waved and smiled and went upstairs to start my nightly routine of getting ready for bed.
Little did I know, that would be the very last time I saw Gag.
The next day, he suffered a stroke and passed away 2 days later on November 8, 1985.
My first real loss. Oh how I cried. Oh how much I thought about, that awful thought. Our family was swimming in sadness. Gag was part of our life every day. It was a big hole and things would never be the same again. I knew this.
In my 11-year-old way, I quickly came to terms with the awful thought. I wondered about it a bit and packed it away in my mind for many years without saying a word about it to anyone. But it always surfaced, when it was time to say goodbye to anyone, within myself.
After that day you can bet that with every hug I consider not giving, I see Gag, and give it.
And with every hug goodbye that I do give, which is to most that pass in and out of my doorway, I see Gag there, too, and give it.
Do I have any doubt that he knew how much I loved him? Not for a second, because I gave him so many hugs up until that night and was always filled with so much joy when I saw him.
But what I wouldn’t do, to be able to give him one more hug goodbye. To smell him, or to sit on his lap and tap the masonic ring that he wore. It was so safe.
If only I had that last hug? Would it have made a difference?
We never know when loss is going to happen.
So my question to myself and you is why hold grudges and difficult conversations within? Why not take the time to give someone a touch when they walk out the door? Why wouldn’t you let someone know where you and your feelings are, rather than have those feelings live within yourself, unshared, like a hug that is not given.
I was blessed, I was able to know all 4 of my grandparents really well, and all 4 of them were special people to me. But, oh, how we remember that first loss, it’s different, it’s the one that wakes a child up to the realities of what grief and deep sadness are.
And that is why I choose to hug, most often and frequently. My children don’t leave the house without getting their hugs, friends, and family too.
My message to you this Monday is to take that hug, take it fiercely, or take it tenderly, just take it.
It’s hard to be mad, when you hug someone. It’s hard to hold back emotions when you share a space so close–even if it’s for only a few seconds.
A hug has the ability to stop a chasm that might be growing and makes a closeness tighter and sweeter.
This is why I hug and share with you.
Here’s my hug to you, today.