Pressure smack dab in the middle of my head irradiates down through my eyes, flowing into concrete tension in my neck while leaving my legs too wobbly to stand for long. There is no pill to remedy the ache, no tonic to flush the anxiety, no prayer for a miracle whose time has passed and will never come again. I am tired.
No matter how much we prepare for the death of a loved one we are never truly ready when that day comes. Everyone knows exactly what I mean, having lost a colleague, a friend, a spouse, a grandparent, a mother, a father, a sister, or - a brother.
For what exactly are we preparing? Are we organizing the visitation at the funeral home, searching for those special pictures to place in a memorial video? Are we talking to the children about the loss of a person close to them, struggling to explain death and its transition between life and the afterlife? Are we clearing our schedules of incidental duties so that we can "be there" for anyone and everyone who needs us? We all go about our business preparing for the death of a loved one, none of us really choosing to do the same thing but ultimately arriving at the same destination.
We all want to arrive at the point when we can genuinely and faithfully “let go” of the sadness, the heartache, and the hopelessness, without admitting, perhaps selfishly or shamefully, that we need to do so in order to move on with our lives. To live in a perpetual state of grief is not healthy and certainly not what the person we mourn would want us to do.
Central Catholic High School and the Wheeling community lost someone close to us this week: math teacher, baseball coach, God’s disciple, loyal friend, and loving brother - Jamey Conlin. We all have been preparing ourselves for this day since last spring, desperately praying for that miracle that never appeared while praying that God would be merciful to Jamey.
Jamey would stubbornly lecture us all about not making such a big deal out of him. Yes. He would.
Tuesday was a long day at Central Catholic High School. In my soul I knew the time had arrived. By eighth period I could barely pull my emotionally depleted body out of the comfy chair at the front of my room to conduct these darn book talks with my AP English students. I feared that they would see the lack of heart in my eyes, that I was tired from preparing for this moment, worn-out from the constant worry about my friend.
Tuesday night we all received the news of Jamey’s passing in one way or another, whether it was a call from a friend or a notification on Facebook or Twitter. Countless people took to social media to express their love and respect for Jamey. Parents. Friends. Colleagues. Current students. Graduates. Everyone testified about what a wonderful person Jamey was, word by loving word attesting to the specific differences he had made in their lives. I placed one of my favorite pictures as my cover photo and told Jamey that he had “made the world a much better place.”
Jamey, Nate, Me, and Betsy
CCHS 150th Celebration - 2015
But why do we have to let go completely? Sadness will eventually dissipate over time as our lives slowly return to normal, but we can hold on to something that will keep the person we have lost with us. Not pictures, jewelry, or letters. Those tangible objects fade, tarnish, and tear, even while personal memories exist within them.
What if we take a quality we most love or admire in a person and make it ours? Make this quality a living, breathing testimony to the person who is no longer with us? What if we did our best to emulate this quality in order to make our own lives and the lives of others better?
Over the course of the next week or month, I will gradually let go of my sadness and heartache, taking comfort in this transition as I consider which of Jamey’s remarkable qualities I will keep with me and aspire to make a part of my own life, choosing one which will continue to make my world, our world, a much better place.
Maybe the miracle for which we prayed finally arrived, just not in the form or time frame we had hoped it would. Maybe the miracle is our ability to surrender the best parts of ourselves to the hearts of others and never truly leave our loved ones behind.
|Outside Jamey's Room
Jamey, This post is dedicated to you and all of your accomplishments. As I have said quite often, you have made the world a much better place. Thanks for being there whenever I needed you to be and for being the kind of person I want to be. Rest easy now, my friend.
Top Picture - Personal (Sign Creation - CCHS Students)
Middle Picture - Personal (Selfie Stick)
Bottom Picture - Personal (CCHS Students and Staff Creation)