Three funerals and a wedding

Last week was unlike any I have ever had in my life.

After never experiencing the death of a friend or immediate family member my entire life, that all changed in a heartbeat when my friend Eric was unexpectedly and instantly killed on March 13.

His memorial, last Thursday, was an amazing tribute and a fantastic retelling of his life through his family and close friends.

The following day, my father-in-law’s best friend, and a close family friend to my wife’s family passed away. It was expected, as he had been battling cancer for awhile. But it was no less sad to see a good man go. I have gotten to know many of my wife’s family friends over our 19 years of marriage, and he was one of the best.

On Saturday, one of my favorite friends married her man in what was one of the best weddings I’ve ever attended. If my wife and I were to renew our vows, I think there wedding is the template we’d follow on how to put it together.

It was difficult, after the events of the week, to get happy again and now allow the darkness of one area of my life not cast a shadow on the lightness of another friend’s celebration. At first, it was difficult to watch two of my friends begin their life together so soon after two of my other friends had just had theirs abruptly end forever.

Fortunately, I was able to separate the two enough to see the joy in where I was and what we were celebrating.

The following day started as a bit of a recuperation day. My family was just hanging around the house and talking about the week when my daughter noticed that her hamster, Janie, had died.

Janie was getting old, and it was not unexpected, but this was my daughter’s pet and her first loss. In writing, comparing the loss of the two people I mentioned with that of a hamster seems silly. But the loss was still all very real and painful for my daughter.

One thing that came out of Janie’s loss was that my wife and I witnessed just how amazing our daughter can be. While we had been dealing with the tragedy of the week, my daughter  had quietly, without us knowing, created a coffin for her hamster that had a fleece bed in it and “I love you so much, Janie” written on the outside of it.

It was perfectly and lovingly built, and it was a private act of love between my daughter and her pet.

Later that afternoon, in the rain, we said a prayer and buried Janie in the backyard, and the emotions of the week just exploded for all of us. To an outside observer, it was just a silly grave for a hamster, but the symbolism of the burial was all too final for all three of us, who each had an important friend pass away.

Grief has never been a part of my life, until now. I’m still learning a lot about it, but I do know one thing: Eric, Larry and Janie gave us a great deal of joy, and they’ll be missed by our family.

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