Death of a loved one prompts deep grief… and offers ALL of us a profound gift.
I shared this reflection at my Step-Mum’s funeral on Monday (6th June 2016).
Following the Introduction the reflection comes in two parts.
Part One was written for those who knew and loved Dot during her 96 year lifetime. If you didn’t know Dot, but want to be inspired by the life of a very special woman, it’s also for you.
It focuses on the many gifts Dot gave to each of us as family and friends.
Part Two is for EVERYONE… Dot gave us ALL a profound gift when she died.
If you knew Dot it will touch you more deeply.
If you didn’t know Dot it may touch you deeply nonetheless… it may even change your life.
A Reflection on the life of Doris Irene James
“Dot, Nanna, Nanna-The-Great”
For those who don’t know me I’m Ian James, the son of Jack James, Dot’s second husband. Today I’m honored to give a Reflection on behalf of the James side of Dot’s family.
Doris Irene James… Dot, Nanna, Nanna-The-Great… was much loved by all of Dad’s family… in fact she was much loved by her whole family on both sides.
Dot gave us many gifts.
I’d like to reflect on some of these today.
The Gifts Dot Gave Her Family and Friends
Her warm, welcoming smile
Dot’s picture on the screen sums it up so well.
Her big, broad, loving smile that always spread across her face when she greeted us.
A smile that said so much…
Welcome… I’m so pleased to see you… Come on in… I value you… I love you…
Every time I visited Dot she gave me the gift of that beautiful smile.
~ ~ ~
I arrived at Ringwood Private Hospital on the Wednesday before Dot died… this was the last day she was able to converse… just a little.
When I walked into her room, leaned over her bed, and gave her a hug and a kiss, she gave me her smile one last time. It was a much weaker smile this time, but it still poured out the same love and gratitude she always greeted me with.
~ ~ ~
No doubt each of you received the gift of Dot’s amazing smile many times.
Dot’s kindness and hospitality
Dot had such a generous spirit.
She knew how to love other people in practice and gave of herself in a way that created value and self‑worth in each of us.
Dot frequently expressed her kindness through hospitality toward her family and friends.
There was always a warm welcome whenever we walked through her door. After a hug and a kiss we’d sit around the kitchen table sharing a cuppa or a meal, enjoying her warmth and catching up on all the news.
Dot also reached out people who were doing it tough and needed a place to stay.
She opened her home and her heart and shared both with them.
The other day my sister, Glenda, told me how very much it meant to her to be welcomed into Dot and Dad’s home for 6 weeks in a time of crisis. The practical love they gave her in this very difficult time still touches Glenda deeply today.
My schoolmate Doug was living in a caravan with his parents and three rowdy younger siblings. He was trying to study for our final year of High School, but it was an impossible situation. Dad and Dot came to the rescue and invited Doug to stay with us for that year. This not only allowed him to gain his Year 12 certificate… it literally changed his life.
Doug said to me the other day he had never experienced the love of a family like he experienced that year with the three of us.
What an incredible gift Dot, along with Dad (and me too), were able to give him.
Dot’s love for her family
Dot’s love was totally inclusive of both sides of the family. There was no difference between her love for the her side of the family and the James side. We were all her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren and just recently her first great-great-grandchild… over eighty of us in total.
~ ~ ~
I invited the James family to contribute to this reflection…
The thing Nana gave me was the love of a blood-grandmother. I have no biological grandmothers that I knew. But I never felt as if I wasn’t related to Nana or her side of the family.
Such gracious love and an enormous gift.
I will always remember Nanna’s vegetable soup. The aroma would hit me as I walked in the door and Nanna would embrace me with a warm welcome.
I didn’t realise how wonderful she was as a grandparent until I married Stephen and saw how much time and effort Nanna and Granddad spent on their grandchildren. Nanna definitely surpasses all Grandmothers and I think the thing that strikes me most is that even though I was her step-grandchild she didn’t treat me or my children any differently to her own blood related grandchildren.
She really was amazing.
Ruth also added how much she valued the Source of Dot’s love…
Her quiet and gentle faith in God.
When I think of Nana, I think of her pikelets with jam and cream. She always made them for us when we came around as a family. That was part of her gift of hospitality to us all.
She also remembers the many games of Gin Rummy we played with Nanna and Grandad around the kitchen table.
Dot’s love for my Dad and the joy she brought into his life
My Dad, Jack James, endured a lot of hardship in his early life…
He was raised outside the family home as a child, and saw years of active service overseas in World War 2 in his youth.
His first wife Edna, my Mum, died suddenly and unexpectedly when she was only forty-nine… she was playing the organ in this same church when she died.
Dad was faced with raising three teenage daughters and myself at only eight years old .
Five years later Dot entered Dad’s life. Her love for him lit up his whole life.
She gave him a joy he had never known before. I remember the day when he confided in me that as much as he dearly loved my Mum, Dot was something else!
I can honestly say that the best thing that ever happened to my Dad… was Dot.
(This was one of the things I was able to say to her on the final day she could speak.)
The profound gift Dot gives us ALL
Dot has given all of us one final gift… one that has the potential to change the rest of our lives.
It may be a gift you don’t want to receive… but it’s very hard to knock it back when it’s right in front of you.
It may be a gift you’re not ready to receive… if so that’s okay.
If it’s not the right time for you, let it pass you by.
But… if this gift is for you, and it’s the right time for you to receive it, I encourage you to embrace it with your whole heart, because it is a very precious gift indeed.
Today as we gather together to remember Dot, we share a common emotion… grief.
Grief is one of the most powerful emotions we will ever feel.
Losing a loved one produces the deepest grief of all.
(The emotional storm)
No doubt when you heard the news that Dot had died you experienced this grief.
But grief is just the beginning.
It inevitably triggers a whole range of emotions, initially associated with losing Dot, then it will likely continue beyond and also trigger memories of many previous painful events in our lives.
Virtually any emotion can rise to the surface.
Grief can give rise to anger, frustration, guilt and regret.
It can also trigger compassion and love, gratitude and even joy.
Over these last two weeks since Dot went into hospital I’ve experienced them all.
Grief can trigger an emotional storm within us.
Dot passed away late at night Friday on 27th May… a little over a week ago.
Late afternoon the following Sunday I turned on my mobile phone and up popped a photo-memory from 4 years ago. It was a photo of Dot and my wife Rosie.
I was standing in the middle of the photo with one arm around each of them.
The photo hit me like an emotional brick… here I was with two precious women who have both passed from my life in a little over 18 months.
I couldn’t think and I couldn’t feel… I was just stunned.
Sunday evening was tough… I knew I was in pain but I couldn’t bear to face it.
Late in the evening, after I’d run out of things to distract myself, I knew I had to try to unpack what I was feeling.
I started writing… pouring out all the thoughts and feelings that the photo had provoked. Laying behind my grief over Dot was my grief over Rosie… and beyond that, a whole series of painful life events going right back to my early childhood.
When I was too tired to write any more I closed my laptop and just sat a the kitchen table.
A thought struck me… as painful as it was, Dot had just given me a profound gift.
Her passing had caused a whole range of hurt and anger in my life to resurface, each memory and deep emotion crying out for my attention.
I had just taken a new step towards resolving them… the next phase of working through these issues had just begun.
The Opportunity to Change Your Life
No doubt many of you can identify with what I’m saying.
We all have past hurts and issues… life does this to us.
Occasionally an event comes along that tears the lid off the deep emotions and memories we hide within us.
Losing Dot did this for me.
It may be doing exactly the same for you.
Dot’s final gift to us is the Opportunity to reflect on our lives, to identify what is really important, to face and deal with the issues that her passing raises within us.
Perhaps most difficult of all, Dot has given us the opportunity to reflect on our relationships, especially those that are damaged or broken.
Like me, you face a choice.
Dot’s passing is one of the rare moments in our lives when we are offered an opportunity with the potential to change our lives.
But it is up to you to decide whether or not to receive this gift.
If you’re not ready to it, let it pass you by, that’s okay.
But be careful.
If it is your time to receive it, don’t wait too long to grab a hold of it, because after today the rawness of this opportunity will quickly fade.
If there are hurts or issues in your life that need to be resolved, or relationships that need repair, grasp a hold of this Dot’s gift, motivate you to take your first steps to begin the healing process.
To Sum it up…
Dot gave her family and friends many wonderful gifts throughout her life…
Her loving smile.
Her kindness and hospitality.
Her love for her whole family.
The love and joy she brought into my father’s life.
But in her passing she may have given ALL OF US of us the most amazing gift…
the opportunity to reflect on our lives and our relationships… and the challenge to take the first steps to bring change and healing.