Grief can be such a powerful thing. I’ve seen the passing of a loved one destroy people, and even kill them. I never know what to say, what to do, how to act. “My thoughts are with you and your family” seems such a paltry thing. It is even harder when they die too young.
When my mom died, a friend, John Dougherty, passed me this story. It helped. I’ll be following the story with some other things that have helped me.
The Dragonfly Story, author: unknown.
Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a colony of water bugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were very busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond. They did notice that every once in a while one of their colony seemed to loose interest in going about. Clinging to the stem of a pond lily it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.
“Look!” said one of the water bugs to another, “one of our colony is climbing the lily stalk. Where do you think she is going?” Up, up, up it slowly went… Even as they watched, the water bug disappeared from sight. Its friends waited and waited but it didn’t return…
“That’s funny,” said one water bug to another. “Wasn’t she happy here?” asked a second. “Where do you suppose she went? Wondered a third.
No one had an answer. They were greatly puzzled. Finally, one of the water bugs, a leader in the colony, gathered his friends together. “I have an idea.” “The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell us where he or she went and why.”
“We promise,” they said solemnly.
One spring day, not long after, the very water bug who suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, up, up he went. Before he knew what was happening, he had broken through the surface of the water and fallen onto the broad, green lily pad above.
When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He could not believe what he saw. A startling change had come to his old body. His movement revealed four silver wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings…the warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from his new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly found himself up above the water. He had become a dragonfly!
Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. By and by the new dragonfly lighted happily on a lily pad to rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the water bugs! They were scurrying around, just as he had been doing some time before.
The dragonfly remembered the promise: “the next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk will come back and tell where he or she went and why.” Without thinking, the dragonfly darted down. Suddenly he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water…
“I can’t return!” he said in dismay. “At least, I tried. But I can’t keep my promise. Even if I could back, not one of the water bugs would know me in my new body. I guess I’ll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they’ll understand what has happened to me, and where I went.”
And the dragonfly winged off happily into its wonderful new world of sun and air.
The Dragonfly Story Revisited, author: me
The last few years have been hard. I have lost loved ones before, but it was not the same. Did my own illusion of immortality insulate me from the grief? I don’t know. As I get older, is it the realization of my own mortality that feeds a greater grief, a fear of leaving my loved ones?
I just had to rearrange my work area, shift things around, and I found myself arranging the “memory” cards I have been getting at funerals—I’m not sure what they are called.
In 2008, a great, funny, warm light disappeared from the world with the passing of my Coci. 2008 also had me at friend’s funeral for his baby sister who was far, far too young. I did not know Kimberly, but I had been around when she was growing up.
2012 is was my Popsey, my uncle, a man who’s even temperament and generous heart I try to emulate.
In 2015 it was my dear, sweet girl, Maureen. Younger than me by a few months, her long battle with cancer came to an end.
I knew Mom was coming even when I was at Maureen’s funeral. Her health battles were titanic over ten years, and, in January of 2016, she passed.
I can feel the grief now as I write this, battling with the light brushes of dragonfly wings. I can feel the crushing weight that could burry me, that maybe has, as I went into “machine mode” as my therapist says.
But then I feel something else. I feel the slap of a dragonfly wing—as if the dragonfly was 20 feet long and weighed a ton. I can feel Mom, and Maureen and Popsey and Coci slapping the hell out of me. They worked far too hard, put in far too much effort, to help get me to a good place, that they would be pissed off if I allowed their passing to drag me from it.
And so I’ll start writing again. I’ll get out of machine mode. I’ll start golfing again. I am surrounded by a wonderful family and group of friends that deserve my happiness. And I have worked too hard to be happy not to be happy.