A friend of mine (and mother of former preschoolers) lost her husband suddenly at a young age. I went to the funeral and saw those now-grown, former preschoolers of mine. I was humbled and complimented when they still greeted me by my title, “Miss Jan.” The hugs were sweet.
Somehow the funeral and seeing old friends got me thinking again about my own losses…which I suddenly realized also led to me to think about losing titles that have helped define who I am and have been all these years.
Specifically, I am no longer a daughter. I was blindsided by the thought and the ache that filled me. I was a daughter for 60 years. It was a title only two people in this world used; my Mom and Dad. It was some kind of secret code or tenderness I shared with them. I would call this last year, “Hi Dad”, and he would reply, “hi daughter.” They were both always glad to hear from me and always thanked me for calling. I’ll admit the last year was hard. Every time I called my Dad it was a reminder that my Mom wasn’t there to be in on the call.
It was how I referred to myself when meeting folks at their church, or seeing friends of their’s who were trying to place me. “I’m Oscar and Marian’s daughter”, I would say and they could immediately place me by that title.
You are given various titles over your life. In my case, daughter, sister, Miss Jan, Aunt Jan and so on. Those titles speak of love, chosen work and ways that your life has been immeasurably enriched. But I never considered that you also sometimes lose titles. Like daughter. And sometimes the lose hits new as you realize one of those titles is lost forever. It is strange I will grant you. It hasn’t hit before now. It doesn’t impact my daily life.
But people have said to me, from the depths of their own experience, “it’s hard to be an orphan”. I never considered that either. I have family, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, Aunts and Uncles who still mean family to me. But suddenly orphan made ‘sense” to me in the context of no longer being anyone’s daughter.
Grief is not a destination but a journey. It happens in fits and starts. It is not a straight path but one that weaves around your heart on any given day in unexpected reminders. Someone said, “grief is that last gift we give when we lose those we love.” I am finding that to be true.