Rules For Life – A Toast To Those Who Are Gone
by Ken La Salle
Welcome back to my continuing series of Rules For Life.
For most of my life, I didn’t really understand loss. I understood the trivial kind of loss, such as when you lose your keys or when you lose your job, but when it came to the profound loss of a loved one I was fortunate enough to remain untouched for many years.
Then, my father died. His death was followed far too closely with the death of my step-mom, Blanche, a woman who I felt just as close to as if she was my own mother. The only way to explain in simple terms just what their loss has meant to me is to share with you the fact that I still find myself thinking about them just about every day, years later. Just yesterday, for instance, I was hiking through some local hills and mused on how much Blanche would have loved to see some pictures from my hike. I could take the pictures easily enough but she remained far out of reach.
Recently, a friend on Facebook shared the sad news of her grandfather’s passing. She expressed how painful the memories they shared had become and how she couldn’t stop thinking of him. I wanted to console her but realized that all I could say was that she wouldn’t stop thinking of her grandfather, just as I haven’t stopped thinking of my Dad and Blanche. My only other option was to fall back on platitudes. “He’s in a better place.” And that just ain’t my style.
Instead, I thought, There must be more to this experience than just the pain. Surely, there must be something more to take from the loss of a loved one than just sadness.
As I was hiking through those hills the other day, I considered this and, in so doing, my memory drifted over to other people I’ve known, many of whom I’ve long forgotten. Strangely, it was those people, those I forgot long ago, who helped me realize just how important remembering the ones we’ve lost actually is.
It’s easy to forget people. We do it every day. We don’t forget because we want to; it’s not because we’re bad people. Simply put, however, some people play a more important role in our lives, which makes them “unforgettable.” I once knew this incredibly empathetic, caring young woman I worked with in the late 1980’s. She helped me get through some rough times, just by being there. I wish I could remember her name, honor the role she played in my life – but, sadly, she has faded into the recesses of my memory. How horrible would it be if my own father faded away just as easily? Can you imagine just forgetting your own father the way we forget others? That would be too horrible to imagine, I think.
The way we know how much we loved someone, how important of a role they played in our lives, is with our memories. These reminders that seem to come out of nowhere, that interrupt our days and make us wonder why we are suddenly thinking of some individual no longer in our lives, should not be considered an inconvenience or met with sadness. Consider how awful forgetting them would be! I can’t imagine what it would be like to forget my Dad and Blanche or any of the other people I find myself randomly thinking about. I think that would make me little more than a zombie. It is our memories that make us more human, even long after someone has left our lives.
Therefore, the Rule for this month is two-fold. Yes, we remember those we lost. It’s automatic and can be painful at times. But those memories are your opportunity to celebrate the time you had with that person, to drink a toast to those who are gone. The sadness of loss is also a reminder of love, how much you loved another as well as how much they loved you. It is to be cherished, just as you cherished that person.
In that way, they are always with you.
About the Author
Author and Playwright, Ken La Salle grew up in Santa Ana, California and has remained in the surrounding area his entire life. He was raised with strong, blue-collar roots, which have given him a progressive and environmentalist view. As a result, you’ll find many of his stories touching those areas both geographically and philosophically. His plays have been seen in theaters across the country and you can find a growing number of books available online. Find out more about Ken on his website at www.kenlasalle.com.