The room was completely quiet, everyone respecting the request for a moment of silence. Sniffles were softly heard in the distance as I felt tears slowly slipping down my cheek.
I was envisioning a small, mended bird being released from the hand of a human healer. I experienced in my mind the bird flapping its delicate wings to fly freely toward the sky.
As many gathered at the funeral to honor my sister-in-law and all she endured to resist the fate of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, there was a powerful sense of release rather than relief.
For most, hands had been tightly gripped for weeks wondering if that day, hour or minute would be the last they would have to share with her. I do not doubt there was an almost collective breath-holding as we all awaited the word through planned channels that minute had come.
When the message came, in unison hands were opened from their clenched state and collective exhales were expressed. My sister-in-law’s weakened body was finally set free from pain, her courageous fight had come to an end.
This is but one reason I have been using the word “release” rather than relief, when asked to describe how everyone is feeling following the ceremonial weekend of her death. The other is, I was given the incredible gift of making a living amend.
Making amends to right the wrongs done while in active addiction is part of the recovery program I’ve dedicated my life to. This particular process is about acknowledging personal change so as not to repeat the past. There are many ways to go about offering amends as there are reasons for them. A “living” amend is made by action rather than word. For example, every day I remain sober and free from unhealthy behaviors is an amend to all those who experienced my life otherwise. I am living the change, not talking about a change needing to be made.
Twelve years ago my husband’s family went through an equally horrifying death. My father-in-law died suddenly and for the most part, without warning. He was the pillar of not only my husband’s family but for the community at large. This past weekend a friend shared he did not attend my father-in-law’s funeral because traffic was backed up for miles to get to the church.
I wasn’t there either. I was in the hospital being tended to after having an alcohol withdrawal seizure the morning of the funeral.
I was not there to sit beside my husband during one of the darkest days of his life. I was not there to lend a hand of desperately needed comfort while receiving the same in return.
This past weekend I sat beside my husband, holding hands in silence where touch speaks louder than words. I was deeply engaged with others, sharing a tear and a laugh recalling moments with my sister-in-law with literally hundreds who came to share in mourning.
Over the years I have spoken personally with those who experienced my behavior of 12 years ago, some more difficult than others but eventually we moved on.
This past weekend I was given the opportunity to walk the walk rather than talk the talk, freeing the remaining shreds of guilt and shame I hadn’t realized still lingered for my behavior long ago.
Like the little bird and my dearly departed sister-in-law, I was released from a wounded experience, now able to fly free toward whatever is next.