There is Something Beautiful in a Life Lived Well


That was said to me yesterday.

It seems much easier to grasp those words and find solace in them when you aren’t mourning. When you’ve lost someone, words mean nothing and condolences mean very little. Nothing will bring someone back.

The pain never really goes away, either. I guess you learn to live with it. You remember how to breathe and that you should sleep and that you should do laundry or whatever other menial and meaningless task you need to do- but it’s all echoes of your life before the loss. Everything becomes a haze, everything becomes foggy, and the unfairness of our finite time here on earth is really all that stays constant. It digs a hole in your heart, and it never closes.

We recently lost someone important.

I use the term ‘we’ loosely because I had only just started to get to know this person. It was a member of the fiancee’s family and I admit I don’t really have the right to write about this person because, on the scale of grief, mine is incomparable to the fiancee’s grief and incomparable to his family’s grief. But I selfishly let the unfairness of my short time with this person roll around in my head and now it’s leaking out my fingers onto the keyboard.

I wish I could explain it.

How do you explain feelings with just words? Can you?

Have you ever walked into someone else’s house, for the first time, and felt like you were at home? I don’t mean you feel comfortable enough to, say, take off your shoes. I don’t mean you feel comfortable enough to maybe make a suggestion for dinner. You actually don’t just feel comfortable — you feel like you are at home. You can lounge on the couch, you can joke around, you can drink their drinks and eat their food. You can complain about work and chat about your day and laugh your loudest laugh and they treat you as if you’ve always been there. They treat you as if you’ve always just walked in their front door and they hug you and ask about your life and you tell them. You tell them because they exude love and welcoming and understanding. You leave their house feeling whole and like you’ve got someone in the world on your side. Not just someone – an important someone. A great someone.

This person that we lost made such an impact on me during my very short time with them that my heart is completely shattered for those that loved her their whole lives.

When I left this person’s house last month, I talked incessantly about how amazing she was and how incredible I felt and how we were going back to visit, a lot, and soon. I thought, foolishly, that maybe it was something about the city and the house and the location… but it was the people. It was the people in the house that filled my heart.

The same house was just full of people, but it wasn’t for a visit. Everyone comes together when someone important is lost and, this time, even though as I opened the front door to the house I felt like I was back at home, I knew I was half on the outside. I knew my grief was a tiny, minuscule, barely perceivable grief compared to the grief of the family. I felt a little like an imposter, shedding tears over someone who had only recently touched my heart.

This family, though. I watched and hugged and cried and tried to help. I talked to everyone I could and offered the empty words and, guys, this family is not normal. They are not normal in the very best way. Every single person there, from those that I already knew and those that I just met treated me like I was supposed to be there. I felt, from each member of this family, the same love and understanding and welcoming that the person we lost gave me.

And it wasn’t forced, or fake, and it didn’t make me feel uneasy. I didn’t retreat to an empty room or outside to get a break and relax. It was genuine and real and I wish we could have all stayed in that house for a little bit longer, and I wish she had been there, so I could have said – I’m new. I’m so new to this family and my God you did an incredible job with these people and I can’t even articulate how lucky I feel to be a part of it.

I can’t speak for everyone else, nor would I want to. I wouldn’t dare. But I saw the person we lost everywhere – in other people’s hugs, in other people’s tears, in other people’s willingness to help everyone else. I said before, and I know I’m correct, that I don’t have the right to write about this person we lost. I don’t have a lifetime of memories to cling to and although my entire chest aches with pain I don’t have to completely rearrange my day because she’s gone. I have but a sliver of memories, a small batch of wonderful feelings to hold on to. If I took that from my short time with her, what must everyone else be feeling?

But I wanted to write, to document, to explain that I found her in that house, even though she’s gone. I found her in the hugs and the acts of kindness and the laughter and the pats on the back. I saw her in her kids and grandkids. I heard her in people’s words and their smiles because she taught everyone that was in that house how to be the very best type of person: kind, selfless, welcoming, loving,  and understanding. My fiancee’s parent’s house feels the same way to me – like I’m home. It’s obvious why — it’s something that’s passed down, starting with the one we lost, and running deep in this family.

I found myself thinking, over and over, as I watched this remarkable family take care of each other: what a legacy to leave. It’s not right that she left, it was too soon and too sudden. It’s not okay and it never will be okay. She wasn’t physically standing there with us, making us feel at home, making me feel at home — but her mark was all over everyone else. She was still there. She will always be there.

No loss is an easy loss. No moment is the same once someone leaves. The sky looks different and the rain feels different and you just try to go through the motions and hold yourself together. You say – they would have wanted me to be happy. They would have wanted me to survive this, they would have given anything for me to find comfort somehow. I’m not sure if that’s always true — but in my short time with the person we lost I feel like I can say it’s true of her.

Hug the people you love. Tell them today that they are important. I’ll do my best to be the best me, and I hope she will know that it’s in part because of the impact she had on me in the very short time I had with her.


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