I always thought of grief as the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (not necessarily in that order).
But what I failed to realize is that you never really get over grief. It leaves a void that can never be filled. And although you take comfort in the happy memories and the love you shared, there is an emptiness where that person was that will likely remain with you for the rest of your life.
You learn to live with it — to eventually accept it. But it is always there.
Testament of Youth
I’ve been listening to a lot of calming instrumentals over this cold and rather unusually snowy winter. And I stumbled upon the fact that one of my favorite artists did the score for the film, Testament of Youth.
This isn’t a film I found much meaning in on its own, that is until I read the source material by Vera Brittain — hands down one of my favorite finds in 2021 and one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read (I am not alone in this sentiment).
The film makes it out to be a love story, and while that is a small component of her story, in the book, I found the main focus was on the relationship with her brother. And the special bond they shared.
I don’t think romance or “true loves” are what define us in life but rather those kindred spirits we happen upon whether by circumstance or fortuitous relations. The last track of the score is titled, “I will not forget you,” (a main theme of Brittain’s memoir, too, and she succeeds in immortalizing all those she lost during the Great War).
It doesn’t seem real that I should be so lost without my Papaw. Or even socially accepted as he wasn’t a part of my immediate family or even a best friend. But he gave me unconditional love and support that is hard to find as I get older. And the man I knew wasn’t necessarily the man my dad and his siblings knew growing up – a Catholic boy of six born during the depression and much shaped by his experiences.
We didn’t meet until his 50s, and sometimes I wonder at the person I will become a decade or two from now. Will I even recognize myself? Will I be much more open to a different kind of relationship? Will I value different things in my life? It wasn’t until I came along, in fact, that my Papaw gave up his decades habit of smoking. I was the first grandchild but not the last.
And yet much of his later years in life reflected on those moments of my youth when we shared a special moment—when we were in sync (and even when we weren’t)—when we brought out the best in each other—when we reminded one another of the beauty in the world—when, for a moment, all suddenly seemed right. Us kindred spirits.
A Rare Kind of Love
It is the kind of love that is rare to find in a lifetime. And that is possibly why it feels so much like a piece of my soul is missing. I know that if I let myself wallow in it, it would destroy me. So, I don’t. I think of the man he became, the adventures he had even before I was born… the life he lived all the same.
And what mattered in the end was that love. The love I now carry with me.