One of my dearest friends, Elaine, passed away last weekend. All we know is that she got some level of food poisoning that made her violently ill. She was severely dehydrated and didn’t know it. The last time her husband saw her was when they carried her into the ambulance and drove away
Elaine’s husband, John, got a phone call from the hospital in the dark and early morning hours of Sunday. He assumed it was Elaine calling. With relief he answered the phone “Hey. How are you? I’ve been worried”
But it wasn’t Elaine. The voice on the other end said “It’s the hospital. We’re so sorry. We couldn’t save her.”
Those words must have passed through John’s body like lightening bolts. In less than a minute…the life he knew was over. Every time I think about it my heart aches for him.
As a surviving sibling, I know what it’s like to lose your other half. The day my sister died a part of me and my history died with her. I can only imagine how devastating it is to lose a spouse. I know all about the excruciating road ahead for John and his family. He just lost his best friend and partner in life. Where does he go from here? Everything they did together that made them a couple was stolen away in minutes.
What about the kids and grandchildren who sought Elaine out for wisdom, love, warm soup and baked cookies.
My emotions teeter-totter between my own grief and theirs.
I heard about Elaine’s passing around 7 am on Sunday. I was shocked. I cried a little but felt confused. Later that night and after talking with friends I made a hot cup of tea and tried to process Elaine’s death. One of the harshest reminders that come with personal loss is that death gives you no warning. You can plan and be as optimistic as you want, but there are no guarantees.
The Bible refers to death as an enemy. And for good reason. I can’t think of a better expression.
While sipping tea by the glow of the fireplace my mind drifted in and out between the laundry that needs to be done and the plans Elaine had for the upcoming days, weeks and summers. When I last talked to her she was talking about her own piles of laundry.
I thought about the plans we made as friends. I thought about all of the Zoom tea parties and lunches she wouldn’t be there for. I thought about her final hours and moments. Did she know it was to be her last or had she fallen into unconsciousness.
I thought about her dying alone. She couldn’t have family with her when she died. No one close to her to be a witness to her death and parting words. In this Covid-era so many are dying the same way. It made me take note, again, of what truly matters to me. While I was in a deep thought I got a text message from family.
“Take care of yourself. Be extra gentle. You’re always busy and doing something. That grief is terrible. Take a step back. Rest. Laugh.”
And so I have, when and where I can. If you are struggling with loss please remember to take care of you, first.
Elaine Smith was a happy wife, mom, grandma, professor, bible scholar and teacher, and all-around creative woman. She taught dance and competed in dance competitions with her husband. She was known for her wit, compassion, love of truth and God and her ability to make everyone feel as if they’d known her for years even when they didn’t.
It is her laugh, candor and wisdom I will miss most about her. Until I see her again, I will remember all of these wonderful qualities. When I spoke to the friends who knew her longer than I did they said “No one is perfect. But Elaine did her best to measure up to Bible principles and she was pretty close. She was a good life partner to John. A good mom. And a wonderful friend.”
3 Things I’m Doing To Support My Emotional Health During This Time
1). Sleeping in if I feel like it. On a subconscious level I’m feeling sad even if I’m not crying. I’m probably emotionally exhausted so if I feel that way I’m honoring it.
2). Steering clear of passive-aggressive people and the ignorant. I plan to talk more about these types down the road but there are those types who say things they shouldn’t either intentionally or by ignorance. These are usually the same people who would be hurt if you did it to them.
3). Watch something that makes me laugh. Laughing really is good medicine. It wont bring Elaine back but it helps me to focus on the fun times with Elaine rather than the worst day of her life. And she loved to laugh!