Monday, April 2, 2012

Pieces of the Heart

My mother's graduation picture from 1959 - Betty Tannahill Johnson!

I have been fortuanate to have a large and loving family as well as an extended family.  There are various aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents that have helped shape me into the person that I am today.  However, when one is blessed as much as I have been – the loss of those family members can be very difficult as well. There is no question that the most significant loss that I have experienced was my mother who probably had more to do with my personality than any other person.  When we lost her to cancer just a little over six years ago, it made me rethink a lot of things.  Every one of these loved ones that I have lost has taken a piece of me with them…but they have left a piece of them with me as well.

I lost my first grandparent when I was eight years old.  I don’t have a lot of memories of spending a lot of time with my Grandpa Frank.  I do have a few precious memories that remain…that of going to the store with him and picking out candy for my siblings and getting my own bag all on my own.  I especially remember him teaching us how to peal an orange and to this day, the smell of oranges and the act of peeling the orange makes me think of him.  I know that my father is in many ways a reflection of his father.  He is a gentle man who is thoughtful and considerate as well as being a hard worker and loving father and husband.  Many of those qualities are reflections of his father.
As I got older, I lost two great grandmothers and by the time I was 20 – I had also lost both of my mother’s parents.  Seeing my grandmother in the hospital in a coma made an impact on what I thought of these family members.  It reminded me that I needed to tell them that I loved them often and ask them about who they were and what their lives were like.  My mother also reminded me at the time that when you lose someone you love that if you remember and think about them, then they are never truly gone.  She was experiencing a great loss as both of her parents died in that 18 month time period – but the experience of age had taught her acceptance.
My grandparents - Gwen & Capitola Friddle Shearer

By the time, I was 28 years old; I began a new journey of discovery.  I spent a great deal of time asking questions and listening to my older relatives.  I learned funny stories about marriage and children.  Sometimes these questions presented me with new information and insights into some of the family members that I never had an opportunity to know as an adult.  Through my mother and her uncle – I learned about the remarkable life that my great grandmother (Mom Friddle) and her husband (Pop Friddle) had led, as well as some of the sad aspects of their lives.  My father’s mother gave me the gift of her knowledge and family unstintingly.  Together we pored over pictures and talked about what it was like to grow up in such a large family with such remarkable parents and what it was like for her to raise her own family.

These past few months have been difficult.  We have lost my grandmother as well as several other friends and family members.  I have a few other relatives with serious health problems and the future for them is getting short.  As I have lost each one of these loved ones – family and friends – I still remember what my mother told so long ago.  If you remember them then they are never truly gone.  I remember that as well as believe that when we lose someone we love – they take a piece of our hearts with them…but they also leave a piece of themselves to enhance our own lives and memories of them.  It is a reminder to take the time and remember to tell someone you care about - that you love them and that they are important to you!