Loss, love, and laughter

Rose, by Karen Craven

There are many forms of loss — divorce, incarceration, illness, death, even emotional change.

Courage to Change, December 14, 2017  

I know that to be true.

A loss is manifested in an array of endings. I compared the end of my marriage in my 20s to death. In fact, I believed my reality was worse than death. Instead of asking God in the event of death, “Why did you take him from me,” I asked, “Why couldn’t he love me, and why wasn’t I enough?”

As I reflected on the loss this morning, contemplating what to write, I opened my browser and was greeted by this:

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. via Momentum Dash

It is one of my favorite MLK quotes. I believe it appeared today for a reason. I was looking for some old documents last weekend, rooting through boxes in the crawl space, I came across a box, inside of which I found a card, whose author didn’t immediately register with me. I paused and found the receiver’s name: my first husband. The sender was his sister, Suzy, one of the loveliest and kindest women I have ever known. The card held the words of her love and loss of her fiance, and her gratitude to her brother, whose actions helped her heal.

Later that evening, instead of returning the card to the box, I texted my brother and asked him for my first husband’s contact information. The next day, I texted Bert, attached a picture of the card, and asked for his address. I’ve neither seen nor spoken to him since my Grandmother died seven years ago, and my heart was warmed by his gracious response. I recognized the moment as one of peace, and I thanked God for Suzy’s example that allowed me to use love to move past my own loss.

Suzy's card to Bert
Suzy’s card to Bert, 1998

Almost 20 years after Suzy sent that card, the love with which she sent it is still alive. The loving gesture that she acknowledged, still meaningful. And the love that I have for her and her humble nature, remain.

Conversely, think of a moment when someone recalls an event of ugliness and hate, and no one can remember what in the hell was behind that rage and anger. Such was my experience when my sister reminded me I was irate her last year because she didn’t come in from Michigan for my birthday. I have no recollection of such. I apologized and said I was angry about everything and nothing in particular last year. I’d like to believe that is when we choose to love, as MLK spoke of, and when and how hate dies on the vine.

We have a choice. To be angry and host a pity party for loss, knowing we may drown in an abyss of hate, an exit from which may permanently evade us. Or accept the loss as a gift, even when it stings and the search for understanding it takes years. In the case of that card, the loving actions of which make up its subject, occurred almost 20 years ago. Proof that accepting loss takes time.

Last night, at my Westside Improv class, I asked for guidance on how to separate my own experiences from scenes that coincidentally involve my own losses. I wanted to know how to move away from frazzled and emotional nerves. Jeff reminded us NOT to resist it, but to walk into it. He told us to accept it and to use the scene as a chance to work through the grief. “The audience will never know,” he said.

And so I did that.

Accepting loss and choosing love were two great life lessons learned in that modest basement theater last night. When I chose to be present with my classmates, people from all walks of life, together we performed scenes rooted in love and loss and unwittingly created lots and lots of laughter.


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