A Void in Our Loved One’s Shape

“People’s lives don’t get preserved like fossils. The best you can hope for is that time will have hardened around someone’s memory preserving a void in their shape.” (Maggie Shipstead, Great Circle)

I have some serious visual challenges so I often listen to audiobooks. Recently, as I was loading the dishwasher, the above quote echoed through my kitchen. I dried my hands on a dish towel and hit the rewind button to listen to it again. The timing, poignancy, and wisdom of it, resonated with an experience I had the night before.

That evening I had been on the phone with my friend, Vicky, whose 93-year-old father-in-law was in the hospital on palliative care with COVID. The hospital wasn’t allowing visitors, but they had told Vicky’s husband he could come in the next morning to briefly say goodbye to his dad. We discussed how sometimes people can’t die until they know their loved ones will be okay. We also talked about the importance of being able to say what is in your heart before your loved one passes. I related my belief that sometimes the dying can leave their bodies and telepathically communicate with their loved ones. Just like Jocelyn experienced with Kevin, during writings, dead people have relayed to their loved ones things they saw, experienced, as they were in the process of dying on their death beds and then into the beyond. I suggested to Vicky the kinds of sentiments those close to death would appreciate knowing and hearing:

  • Thank you sharing your life with me, for supporting me, for teaching me …
  • We love you and will miss you, but do what you need to do, you can let go now.
  • Give mom (or anyone else who has already died) a hug from me when you see her.
  • You’ll always live in our hearts.

Vicky said, “I’m writing all of this down so I can tell my husband.” I reminded her that now her husband could speak from his heart directly to his dad’s heart, out loud or in the silence of his own self, and send that love and those messages to his dad. I received a text from Vicky about a half hour later that her father-in-law had just passed.

It occurred to me the following morning, that perhaps Vicky had been sending those love messages in real time to her father-in-law as she was writing them down. Though they were apart, her father-in-law heard that she loved him, and that his only child, her husband, and his grandsons would be okay. Yes, they would miss him and grieve, but that they would get through it as a family. It was okay for him to go and be with his wife who had died 14 years earlier, and that she was waiting.

When I talked to Vicky’s son to check in on the family, he reminded me that in a writing many years ago, his grandma had said this about his grandpa. “He just keeps living on, I’m beginning to wonder if he is avoiding me.” I like to think he gave his wife that big hug and their reunion was wonderful.

We never know when we’ll see our loved ones for the last time, especially with COVID. But we do know that the best time to share love and appreciation is in the present, and not assume the other knows the depth of our love. That’s why I encourage you to send a card, text, or email. Maybe even make a brief call–whatever form of communication you choose to convey your feelings. And if none of these methods are available, we can trust that our hearts themselves have a way of sending the messages across greater expanses than we could possibly imagine. I invite you to share your love by connecting with someone today.

Let’s return to the quote that so captured my attention. My takeaway is that although our lives don’t become fossilized, we can always preserve our loved one’s memory, void though they may be in their absence, in our hearts.

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