Late in her life, my mother suddenly developed an interest in baseball. Yes, she rooted for the San Diego Padres, but what started to emerge was a substantial interest in the baseball players themselves.
“Isn’t he cute?” She gestured toward the TV screen. I hadn’t seen this coming.
“Cute as in you’d like to have him over for dinner, or cute as in you like l0oking at his backside?”
She merely smiled at me enigmatically, then turned her eyes back toward the TV.
When Marjorie died in 2005, I asked the funeral home to bury with her a pair of baseball earrings I had made for her — a baseball on one side, a bat on the other — so my love and hers (whatever her baseball obsession was really about) could travel with her.
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about how we hold others’ values, desires, and wishes for them, how they become residues of their life in us and travel with us back into life.
On New Year’s Eve, a brilliant U.S. representative lost his son to suicide.
At first, there was only the announcement that the 25-year-old had died. Then, a few days later, Tommy Raskin’s parents put out a beautiful tribute, with photos that helped tell the story, to the person who was their son. It is an example of how to hold in gratitude even our most terrible losses. You will find it a meditation on love in action.
The Raskins acknowledged their son had suffered from depression but did not make that, nor a sensational mention of suicide, the main thing about him.
The tribute to the remarkable soul they clearly felt privileged to parent for 25 years does not attempt to own Tommy, simply to be grateful for him. It sidesteps any dominant cultural taboo and prurient interest in, or shame about, suicide while acknowledging that depression sometimes kills.
Less than a week later, Rep. Raskin was under siege in the U.S. Capitol, trauma upon grief, with his daughter and a son-in-law, who had wanted to hang close with him, separated from him by insurrectionists. He has said in interviews, while placing his hand over his heart, that he felt his son with him the entire time, and it’s easy to see he meant that in a most visceral way. Tommy was in Jamie’s heart.
Tommy was his father’s pride and joy, a young man who shared many qualities and interests with his father. For a lesser couple than Tommy’s parents, his values and loves would have been easier to carry forward in their actions had, perhaps, they coincided with their own. From observing, however, the beauty of their actions in the three weeks since Tommy’s death, I have little doubt that this couple would have brought Tommy with them back into life, however much his values might have differed from theirs.
For us mortals, it’s harder to hear – and, under duress, to respect — our loved ones’ values when they are opposed to our own. It is a great act of love to hear and to respect them anyway.
One of the outcomes of THE HUMAN JOURNEY® experience Conductors readily observe is how the experience supports family members to hear their loved one’s experience, wishes, and values in their own voice, whether or not they coincide with their own.
In a situation in which what patients want at end of life is different from what family members wished they wanted, THJ® can help them enact their loved ones’ wishes, granting them the great blessing of carrying forward the felt sense of their loved ones with them, into life.