The Final Gift
A TCF Speech – 8 Things I’ve Learned About the Grief of a Grieving Parent
Part Eight of Eight
Sunday, July 6, 2003 - TCF National Conference Closing Speech by Charlie Walton
8. THE FINAL GIFT.
Finally, I want to tell you something that I have begun to realize as the years have passed since the night that Tim and Don, and Don's best friend, Bryan, died. I have realized that, by their deaths and the deep permanent scar it left in my life, they gave me a gift of immeasurable value.
The final gift bestowed by any loved one who is torn from your grasp is a clear and unforgettable awareness of what is permanent... and what is temporary.
My second book, which is called Packing for the Big Trip, was written because conversations I had with people about the first book made it so crystal clear that the reason we are all so completely blind-sided by death is that
we live in a "death-denying society," a society where the death rate is 100 percent, but where no one wants to mention it.
I wrote in Packing for the Big Trip, "Every person who dies gives a priceless gift to those who stay behind.
That gift is awareness of death and its manifold implications for our lives. Death awareness is about living. It brings the maturity we need to live our lives with wisdom and joy...to stop cringing at the thought of eventual death... and start living with the daily enthusiasm of those who are packing for the big trip."
Maybe you are still so close to your child's death that you are not ready to see that there could ever be anything good to come from it. That's fine. Maybe you are still wishing you could wring that kid's neck for leaving you here with all this pain. That's fine too. But maybe, you are beginning to realize that
you have new eyes for the upside down values of our culture, that your "death awareness" has given you greater "life wisdom," that your child's death has given you a gift of life.
Well. I could go on for a while but I was told years ago by a speech teacher that "the ear cannot hear what the seat cannot endure." So, let me encourage you to
One, recognize that you are stuck with this pain, but that the depth of your pain represents the extent of your tribute to the one that left you.
Two, understand that people just naturally say a lot of dumb stuff when they are trying to help, and try to be patient and hear what they mean instead of what they say.
Three, understand that you need to tell and re-tell your story a lot more times than you can expect family and friends to hear it, so be grateful for your Compassionate Friends who are willing to hear your story and even make it their own.
Four, give writing a try. It can really help to get some of that confusion out of your mind and onto paper where you can deal with it.
Five, get regular, strenuous exercise even when you don't feel like you can walk across the room.
Six, let people help you, for their benefit and yours.
Seven, watch out for "personality intensification" and give yourself time to become yourself again before you go making decisions while you are "out of your mind with grief."
And finally, recognize the abiding and valuable gift you have received from the person who went away. You have an understanding of life and its true values that you could never have had otherwise.
Let me close with the final words from When There Are No Words.
"My prayer for you is
that you will have peace,
that you will have good grief,
that you will be honest with yourself,
letting out what is within you,
and refusing to govern your ways of grieving by what you think others might be expecting that you ought to do,
that you will allow your loved ones the same right to their own ways of grieving, never assuming that they should want to cry when you feel like crying, or talk when you feel like talking, or sit and stare when you want to,
that both your life and your death will be greatly enhanced by the perspectives that enter your life when a loved one exits your life,
that you will become daily more comfortable with the realization that, as my son Don used to tell me, 'Death is just a part of living.'"