This has been a summer of travel for our family and this past Thursday we embarked on yet another trip to Virginia Beach . . . but this time to say goodbye to Nana who had passed away last week.
This was our second trip there within a one month period, and the contrast between that first trip and this one is a study on life: three weeks ago we were full of plans that included swimming in Nana and Papa's pool, going to Busch Gardens, visiting cousins.
This time we were full of thoughts on how it was going to be to enter Nana and Papa's house with Nana gone. After 54 years of marriage, how would Papa be? How would the the boys and their cousins handle it? How could my sister in-law, who said goodbye to her husband a mere two months ago, now say goodbye to her mother?
But a wonderful thing happened over the course of the weekend: it was all okay . . . beautiful, even.
To be sure, tears were shed; however, there was an overwhelming peace in knowing that it was okay to smile and laugh; that in gathering together we divided grief; that death can be a source of blessings and graces.
When Nana was diagnosed three months ago with pancreatic cancer, she knew exactly what she was facing, and she was dreading the ravages of the disease. But when she suddenly passed away from a stroke last week, she bypassed all the awfulness that comes with a stage 4 cancer. We were able to see her death as the gift it was, one free from suffering and pain.
Then, over the past month her four children (my husband, his brother, and two sisters), their spouses, and nine grandchildren (8 grandsons, 1 granddaughter) had wonderful visits with her. We were all given the gift of being with the Nana we know and love - which is how she would have wanted us all to remember her.
Finally, Nana had made it very clear to her husband and her children that she did not want any extraordinary measures taken to prolong her life. When the time came, her children had been given the gift of knowing when to let go . . . and accepting it.
Acceptance is a beautiful thing because it converts the internal struggle of it's not right to this is the way it is, and it's okay. Accepting God's will. Accepting the sadness. Accepting that, somehow, it is all good.
I used to think of life as one journey and death as another, and yet they are part of the same journey. Two trips, one journey.
Life . . . in all its stages.