Reminders Aren’t Grief

This morning I looked out my window into my backyard and I saw the daffodils were finally out. Naturally I thought of my Dad.

In the spring before he died the three grandkids, my brother and I walked the backfield with my Dad. He walked the backfield every day and had a bench under a tree at the fence line, marking half way, where he’d sit. Over the years he’d planted daffodils there – a lot of them – and my son asked “Papa Duck, when you die will you come back as a daffodil?”

Sweet…I know.  But that’s not where the story ends.  See my Dad, being my Dad, wasn’t having an epic grandparenting moment where he stepped into teaching about life and death. He simply responded to the question with an uncontainable chuckle and tone suggesting that this was, perhaps, one of the dumbest questions he’d ever heard, and said “No” he wasn’t planning to come back as a daffodil, he wasn’t planning to come back at all.

I don’t know if it was a look my brother and I gave him or if we actually pointed out that here was this small child trying to come to terms with death, but Dad caught on pretty quickly and added to his response that while he “wasn’t planning on coming back if thinking he came back as a daffodil made the kids feel better, then he wouldn’t mind if they thought that”.

Before you think poorly of this story, the three grandchildren ages 6, 7 and 8 at the time didn’t think anything of it. The way my Dad talked about his life and his beliefs had always been matter of fact.  Talking about his pending death and “after life” was no different.   In fact, because of his frankness the kids were able to ask him for his thoughts, fears and hopes about dying, a true-true gift.

And I’m writing all of this, only because this morning I saw the daffodils and it made me think of my Dad and this story.  And I miss him.  But that’s not grief.  It’s a reminder of him.  And reminders aren’t happy or sad unless we make them happy or sad.

When someone says that they are thinking about someone they’ve lost, don’t assume its grief.  It may be, sure.  But if they were talking about a horrible boss or an ex-boyfriend that wasn’t in their life anymore you would assume it was relief, not grief.  Or it may be that this person came into their mind as part of a memory.

And memories are what keep our loved-ones “alive”.

We're in this together...

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Candice Smith

Shortly after her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Candice Smith decided to read his favorite book, How Green Was My Valley. The impact of Richard Llewellyn's words when he wrote: “Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever” changed how Candice viewed her father’s end-of-life journey and how she celebrates his memory. Inspired to change the experiences for all family caregivers, in 2017 Candice founded Caregiven. When she’s not advocating for how individuals, societies and cultures think and approach death, she’s celebrating living in the Pacific NW with her husband, two children, family and friends (pets included).

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