|Frodo at Weathertop in Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring|
Losing a parent, for many of us, isn’t just overwhelming emotional grief, it’s an existential crisis. No longer are we junior citizens in some family corporation; in an instant, we become senior members, the next in line to go, and the sole custodian of some childhood memories. That’s an incredible amount to assimilate all at once and more than most people can handle. Luckily, as Frodo found, catastrophes can be met, especially if we don’t meet them alone.
|The Fall of Gandalf – same film|
Led by my incredible sister, people who loved my Dad pulled together through the despair that followed his passing. They listened to us, laughed and cried with us, fed and boarded us, fetched, carried, and above all, showed us we were still loved even if we’d lost the man who’d loved us first. I learned a lot about the strength and love of old friends eleven years ago.
I also learned a lot about my sis and myself in those days. Her strength of will has been apparent since infancy; seldom has a more focused person walked this earth. But dad’s death taught me more about the nature and limits of my sibling’s strength, that it can become over-stressed, and when she can use my help. I found out I could help her. In my own way, I dealt with disaster and found I could tolerate pain and help others with theirs. I found out many things I feared were worse in anticipation than reality. Sis and I both learned a lot in that time and that knowledge served us well when Mom’s death followed Dad’s. If their passing turned us irrevocably into grownups, those events also made us into something new: a team.
That’s the nature of learning in the worst of times. We’re under so much stress, we don’t even know we’re learning, much less learning what really matters. Only afterwards, will we recognize it as a pinch point. And we’re better beings for surviving its lessons.