Melding families when children get married can be a bit complicated, but not in this instance. First, because the “children” were in their late twenties and both living near us in Northern Virginia where Marcus grew-up. The wedding was held here, and not in Flemington, New Jersey where Rachel grew up and her parents lived. Second, Rachel and Marcus made their home near us in the community where he grew up. So David and Carol would come into town often and always for family celebrations. Of course once Emily and Zachary were born they were down even more often.
David has not been in the best of health the last couple of years, but he had been doing very well and his loss was sudden and unexpected. We got the news in an email while in Brownsville, Texas (see my blog from last week) for the headstone unveiling for her brother-in-law. Rushing back to be present for Rachel and our son and their children we experienced a new role in end-of-life ritual that I have called The Actual Dance. I think there is a special place in the Ballroom for parents when their children Dance.
We share in their sadness. We want to hug and embrace them, especially Rachel and her Mom Carol to let them know how much we love them. There is however also a special place inside us – Susan and I – and perhaps all parents who are similarly situated --- that percolates as we see our children so lovingly engage in this most difficult of transitions -- The Actual Dance.
We also experienced David’s loss differently because he was a contemporary. Our vantage point as one of those “gathered around the darken walls of the Ballroom” during ritual is colored by the sense that we are looking through a window into the future – or maybe it is a mirror. Is this going to be how it will be like when we are go?
We love all of our children, their spouses and all our grandchildren. We are blessed in so many ways. We hurt when they hurt. And yet even in our hurt we are comforted by their amazing strength and courage and ability to love.
Marcus was asked to give the primary eulogy for his father-in-law. You can read it here on Marcus’ Facebook page. And Rachel has shared a wonderful poem called The Dash Poem, which she read at the Shiva service in their home. Incredibly thoughtful moments both reflecting back on David and his life, and reminding everyone that what is important is not when we were born or when we die but what we do between those times, the time reflected by the “dash” on the headstone.
We of course share the sadness and loss of someone we got to know and love. Yet we stand in awe of a unique moment and a unique place in the Ballroom that we didn’t fully understand before.