Friday, October 10, 2003

Neighborhood shares one family's grief


Married with children

By Patricia Gallagher Newberry
Enquirer contributor

In my neighborhood, mothers are hugging their children a little tighter and longer this week.

In my neighborhood, wives are embracing their husbands and saying "I love you" a little more often this week.

In my neighborhood, women are patting each others' shoulders and passing each other tissues and holding each others' hands. The men, meanwhile - the big, strong, never-let-'em-see-you-crack men -are sitting in church pews, heads bowed, shoulders heaving with sobs.

And all of us are asking: How come? What next? And, the big one, what if?

How come a man with so much zest for life can be robbed of that life, at just 41, by a heart condition he didn't even know he had?

What next for the wife who adored and was adored by him, and the four kids who still really need a dad?

And, selfishly, humanly - what if I were the one now facing a future without my partner, my lover, my helpmate, my companion, the very center of my heart?

We are a community grieving the loss of a good man - a husband and father, son and brother, friend and coach and colleague. A man like the ones we know. A man like the ones we married.

We are grieving most, of course, for his wife and children, and the large circle of family and friends closest to them.

Their loss is stunning, their pain palpable.

But, God forgive us, we cannot help but project their pain inward.

We witness the outpouring of love and support for this man - the four-hour wake, the overflowing church - and wonder if we are living a life as worthy of celebration.

We hear the accolades of his family and friends, and consider how to become more focused on others.

We recall his devotion to his wife and children, and pray to be more present, truly present, to the people most important in our lives.

We ponder his cause of death and fear the random nature of the future.

And we indulge our grief by fixating on the hundreds of small ways our lives would be altered by such a large loss.

Who would help shuttle the kids to games and practices and birthday parties and playdates? Who would take a shift on homework duty or a turn in front of the kitchen sink?

Who would mow the lawn on Saturdays, drag out the trash on Tuesdays and walk the dog on cold and rainy nights?

Who would carry the burden of covering the bills?

Who would be our best date on a Saturday night and get our first kiss the next morning?

Whose eyes would always reflect back the best you, whose heart would always know the truest you?

People read obituaries, the journalism scholars say, to take the pulse of their own humanity.

Ah, he was very old or very sick or very bad, we say to comfort ourselves, an unknown man with few to mourn him.

Only this time, he was a good man who lived a good life, well-known, much-loved.

In my neighborhood, one family grieves over his too-soon passing.

In my neighborhood, a community grieves with them.

E-mail patti@marriedwchildren.com.




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