A Hug from a Lost Loved One

By: Martianne Stanger

This past fall, we faced one of the saddest things a family can face: losing a loved one.

Sadder still, our beloved Papa was states away and circumstances did not allow my children to make a final goodbye in person – something they wanted with every fiber of their beings.

Still, we made the most of things.

The kids called in.

They took photos to send to share their love.

Some of them prayed.

They all helped with things so Daddy could go see his Daddy at least.

It was sad times. Very sad times.

And, despite huge sorrows, I was quite proud of my children as they navigated strong emotions brought on by knowing that COVID-crazy had kept them from being able to visit their Papa while he was still healthy and, then, when cancer was quickly taking him and they would not be able to see him again.

While it was heartbreaking to see my children’s weighty sorrow and to be powerless in so much of what was happening, I also could see my children growing in emotional maturity as they dealt with each pain that came their way.

Of course, there are things I wish had never been said or done, and other things I wish were said and done as the final months became final weeks and final days, and, then, we lost Papa. But, what was, was, and what is. You cannot change certain things with life… or death.

You can, though, look for the good.

And one good that came out of the loss and mourning of our Papa was “hugs”.

Since none of our children were able to give or get what they really wanted – a final hug shared with their Papa, we worked to ensure that  they could at least each have a symbolic hug.

We asked each one to pick one (or more) things of Papa’s that would remind them of him and asked if we could have those things, so that every time they wanted to share a symbolic hug with their Papa, they could.

Now, our eldest son often dons a unique hat that prompts comments from friends and strangers alike, “I like your hat.”

“It was my Papa’s” comes the answer with a smile – and a symbolic “hug” from Papa.

Our daughter snuggles into a thick, warm blanket or dons a cozy sweater – physically encircling herself in a “hug” from Papa almost every day – and she wears a necklace as  a ”hug” from Nana, who passed away a few years back.

Our youngest son looks out at the birdhouses that he asked if we could have and, then, set up with Daddy in the yard – always loving watching wildlife, but also getting a “hug” from Papa every time he looks out his window now.

We all sit on a wooden swing in our front yard that we took from Papa’s yard – the swing we sat with him on before each goodbye when we visited him. Papa’s swing. Our big “hug” from Papa.

These things may be just that – things – but they are our “hugs”, too. Our little ways of physically connecting with the man we loved so much and wanted so badly to hold onto one last time.

The children could not do that. They never were able to make their final in-person goodbyes. But, they are still able to get their “hugs” and that is good. So good.

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