Today I am not going to sugar coat what I am feeling. I won't put a positive spin on my mood. I won't look for the silver lining or the light at the end of the tunnel. I know it is there is always a bright side but I am not in the mood to find it right now. I feel sad at the way this school year is starting. I don't feel hopeful that it will change anytime soon. I am tired of seeing people mostly through a screen and I miss my old life. I am okay when I can take one day at a time but today feels bigger than just one day. Its the first Monday of a new school year and I am disheartened that this is the world my children live in right now.
As someone who manages life with an anxiety disorder, when I feel anxiety, I worry about worrying. I have to talk to myself like I am a child and remind myself that it is okay to be scared. It is in fact pretty reasonable in times like right now to be walking around all day with a low-grade worry. When I let myself feel afraid, I can identify exactly which feeling is overwhelming me and then unpack them one by one. What I am finding right now to be the cause is a bigger than usual sense of FOMO for life, for me, for all of us, but especially for children.
Today was my Aunt's funeral. She turned 102 last week and had been starting to fade in the last few months. She had a great long life with family members who absolutely loved and adored her. When someone dies at that age, people say "wow" and I get it because 102 is an accomplishment, but it doesn't make losing someone any easier. I have been to a handful of funerals in the last two years and it doesn't get easier to watch someone physically leave you forever. I listened as speeches are recited in her honor, to say goodbye, to sum up, a life lived in a few short minutes. When asked if anyone else wanted to say a few words, I thought about how hard it would be to bring my slobbering, sobbing self up to speak. I thought about the two times, too recently my husband had to pull together his composure and find the right words for each of his parents. I can only imagine how hard it will be when I say goodbye to my parents.
My father was so close to my Aunt. He would call her several times a week and when my parents were out here visiting the two of them would sit together for hours. They had a history so far back that only the two of them shared. The pandemic has made it too risky for my dad to come to California from New York to be at the funeral. I always imagined I would be standing next to him on this day holding his hand, holding him up, the way he has done for me so many times. The funeral was only for seven family members and the three nurses who cared for my Aunt. As I drove there I spoke to my father on the phone and he asked me to cry a few tears for him. I sure did daddy, more than a few.
Attending a funeral in masks without being able to hug family was trying. I stood there listening with tears streaming down my cheeks into my mask. Not knowing what to do with myself I opened up the prayer book and followed along with the Rabbi. I read these words “O Shepherd of Israel, Who dost neither slumber nor sleep, we are the people of Thy pasture and the sheep of Thy hand. Enfold us safely in Thy love. And if in our grief and loneliness and moments of desolation, we should stray from following Thee, O leave us not, faithful Shepherd, but draw us near unto Thee.” I am not a religious person and I like the freedom to pick, choose, and question religion. I am also not a follower who easily seeks a leader to guide me but I feel comforted by this passage. Today I kept rereading the word "shepherd" it came up in the prayer book over and over today. I am not a follower who trails behind a leader guiding me where to go, and I am no sheep. I could use some direction and support these days and I miss my pack around me. I think we all could use a shepherd from time to time and if ever there was a time, now is that time.
When we talk of people who have died we refer to them in the past tense, yet we keep them alive inside us. I wish there was another way in the English language to speak of the dead. No one likes to say they had a brother or had a mother. I still have my Aunt even though I can't hold her hand anymore. I'm grateful for all the time she had with my family, that she got to know my children, and for the special bond she and my dad had. When I first moved here at 23 my Aunt and her daughter welcomed me, were a support to me and was a Sheppard to me.
Sylvia Sheppard 1918-2020
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