March 7th is just about the worst day of the year for me. Not really just about — just is. On March 7, 1977, my father died at the age of 53. On March 7, 2000, my best friend, Judy Jarvis, died at almost the same age.
There are 365 days in the year. I lost my mother on Feb. 16, 2006, and my other best friend, Kath, on May 24, 2010. But to lose two of the people you love most in the world on the very same date just doesn't seem fair.
I almost crashed my car driving to the airport on March 7, 2010. I just couldn't believe it.
I have had many years to learn to deal with sadness and loss. I have read all the books. I know that my thoughts are just that. I know to breathe in and out. I know to just try to think of something else -- a yellow duck, a yellow painting with white borders, anything to stop the thousands of synapses just waiting to connect me to death and doom. I breathe in, and I breathe out, but the sadness stays.
Sometimes, I look around at all the people who have suffered so much more than I have —— the parents who have lost children, a loss I can't and frankly won't imagine; the parents who must tell their children that they are dying, a horror I can't think of; and I feel embarrassed at my own weakness. What is wrong with me? I am lucky and blessed. But sadness is not a competition.
There are no scores for suffering, no grades for its intensity. The fact that it may all seem like such a silly waste a month or a decade or a lifetime later does not make it feel that way at the time.
When I speak at graduations, I always tell the students that it's not the hand you're dealt, but how you play it; that if you assume you're the only one sitting there with a parent missing or pain in your heart, you are just wrong. I was raped 36 hours before I graduated from college. My father didn't come because I didn't have a ticket for his wife, who hated me anyway.
By the time I was supposed to graduate from law school, my father was dead, and no one in my family much wanted to go, so I didn't.
The students applaud when I tell them these stories because just the fact that I am standing there, the "speaker," must mean that pain can be overcome, that a rainbow will rise at the end of the storm. As graduation speakers go, I'd have to say I'm right up there. But I don't pretend — not for a minute — that I have the answer.
Judy never met my father. My father never met my children. The best I can do on March 7 is to talk about these people I loved so, to take out their pictures and say a prayer in their memory.
I cannot, try as I might, somehow "inject" their spirits into those I love. But I will try my best, even with tears running down my face, to touch their spirits, which I will hold inside of me until my last breath, to hold to our love and to make of it a blessing.
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