I was at the store while on vacation buying items for lunch. My wife and I picked up the cold cuts, cheese, bread, mayonnaise and mustard. I also went down the pickle aisle to get some toppings for our sandwiches. There, I found a jar of roasted peppers. I love them. My mother loved adding them to her sandwiches. 

I reached up to the shelf where the roasted peppers were placed and put my hand on a jar. As I picked it up, a strange feeling came over me. It was a sense of sadness. I knew what was going on.

I miss my mother. Twenty-three years ago, she moved in with us shortly after I arrived in Charlotte. Our home became “The Waltons.” Three generations lived under the same roof. We designed the home so she had a true in-law suite (she had her own kitchen). She was part of all the family events. 

Had she been alive, my wife and I would have taken her with us on vacation. She would have joined in the fun. I would have purchased the roasted peppers because she enjoyed putting them on her sandwich.

Now she is gone, having passed away in December. We spent 10 years watching her deteriorate from dementia and then Alzheimer’s. When someone has these diseases, you watch them walk backwards into a fog. While you know they are still there, eventually you can’t see them. Then you can’t hear them. For the last five plus years, my mother didn’t know who I was. We were able to keep her in our home these 10 years. Her prayer was that she would die in her home. She did.

Since my mother’s death, a friend has been sending me a booklet each quarter about grieving the loss of her life. I received the third one and said to myself, “I’m good. I grieved her death for 10 years before she died.” One of the booklets said something would trigger her loss and you might find yourself breaking down into tears in the future.” Again, I reminded myself, “That may be for other people but not me. I’m fine.”

Who would have known that a simple jar of roasted peppers would trigger feelings of grief and loss? I looked at the jar and said to myself, “I miss my mother.”

When my father died 30-plus years ago, people came up to me and said, “You should be rejoicing that your father is in Heaven with Jesus.” I would just smile at them.

I preached his funeral sermon based on the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.” Lazarus died. Jesus came to the tomb and saw the people weeping over his death. He was deeply moved and then, “Jesus wept.” We weep because we miss the people we love. We weep because there is still so much living that we want to do with them. 

There are still days when I want to sit down with my mother and ask her questions. I want to know about her growing up years, meeting my dad, the challenges of raising three children when my father’s work was inconsistent. I want to hear the funny stories as only she can tell them. But I will never hear them from her voice again. It is now my job to remember them and pass them onto my children. They will smile at me. Unfortunately, they don’t know my relatives as I did. They will forget those stories and they will be lost forever.

It’s OK to miss the people that have gone on before you. It’s OK to grieve their loss. 

I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well my friend.

The Rev. Tony Marciano is the president/CEO of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Visit www.charlotterescuemission.org to learn more. 

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