Appreciation is greater than time
As you grow older you begin to appreciate the small things in your life. For me it’s the way I was raised, the lessons I’ve learned along the way, and the impact my friends and family have had on me. Since COVID-19, I have lost some close friends, family members, and I’ve watched my friends deal with loss too. We have learned how to grieve and support one another in different ways than we have in the past. We have had to attend funeral masses with masks, not have large memorial gatherings, even mourn from afar, but for some reason it feels more impactful because we are challenged to cope in a different way.
For me, I have learned to cope with loss by appreciating time. Up until the beginning of this pandemic, I was going 100 miles per hour, working on multiple things at one time. But the change in society right now has taught me to slow down and do one thing at a time, which is super hard for me because I freaking love multi-tasking. I used to roll my eyes at the sound of “mindfulness,” it always sounded so lame and boring… like do I really want to be mindful? Does that mean I sit quiet with boredom? I have failed multiple times at even attempting to be in the moment. That is until now, until I have been forced to be OK with who I am, where I come from, what I’ve learned, what I have and what I’ve lost.
Time—man, that word is so scary, and so rigid right? How much time do I have to live? How much time will it take to get to where I am going? How much time do we have left to spend together? These questions are so overwhelming because of one four-letter word (TIME).
What if we changed “time” to “appreciation,” just take a step back and try it… I appreciate the time I have to live. I appreciate the time it takes to get to where I am going. I appreciate the time I have with you. There is so much stuff that is compiled into a small word like “time.”
I lost my grandfather, Michael Morano Sr., when I was 12 years old. That was the first real loss I ever had in my life that was truly impactful and hurt more than I can express. But, in the small amount of time we spent together he gave me so much. Annual outings to the Hammonton airport to watch him fly in his plane (I was too scared to go up; I appreciated from afar) but I always enjoyed the chocolate milks at the airport restaurant. He would take me for long car rides in the summer after treating me to ice cream at Royale Crown. The man loved food and I can still hear him when I eat pasta in my head saying, “Mangia, Mangia.” He also taught me how to care for people; he would sometimes take me on his routes in the summer to make J. Morano and Son deliveries. I would watch him with his customers; he treated them with kindness, took their inventory, shook their hand and taught me the customer is always right. I had the least amount of time with my grandfather, but he made the largest impact in my life. He showed me how to be a good father, friend and husband; he loved my grandmother in ways I never saw with my own parents. They genuinely enjoyed each other’s company, they would tease one another, work together and showed me how different family could be.
I lost my father, Jim Stites, to ALS when I was 27 years old. I used to be so angry, and I never understood why I only had such a small amount of time with him here on Earth. My parents divorced when I was 7 and I lost so much time with him; the weekends were split and the time felt fast and messy, but as I grew older, we made more room for one another. I began to see him as a person instead of my father and I appreciated him as an individual. This year will be 11 years since his passing and now I realize how much he gave me in the small amount of time he was here. He taught me how to appreciate good music like the Beatles and Pink Floyd, and to dance like no one was watching. He taught me how to be strong-minded and goal-oriented, and I have taken what he has taught me and shared that with my girls. So now instead of thinking about the loss in time I appreciate what he gave me instead.
If I didn’t have these two important men in my life for the small amount of “time” I did, I would not have grown up to be who I am today.
Grieving them before a pandemic was different, and yes, I was younger, but it was so different. I worked endlessly to make a video of my father’s life to share with friends and family at his funeral. It took me a day to write his eulogy because I wanted to get it right; I wanted to share every single experience I could remember. But, honestly … it was draining. To be honest, I don’t remember the service, and I don’t remember sharing the video. I remember standing in front of some family, some friends and some people I never met before, and pouring my heart and soul into words. Words that were kind of empty because I didn’t know if I shared all those emotions with my father while he was physically here on earth. I remember glancing over at him just lying there … it looked nothing like him. Pardon the pun, but he wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a suit for fun and the man never wore makeup. After everyone walked out of the room, I walked over to my father, touched his hand and closed my eyes and felt at peace. No more suffering, no more dreading the unknown of his illness, but I also felt at peace, and it felt wrong to me.
I would say about two weeks after losing my father, it honestly hit me that he was gone, he wasn’t coming back, and I was a ball of emotions. Some days I would just cry and look at my 10-month-old baby. I couldn’t even pick her up without crying. I would think about him holding me. I would think about how hard it was on my mom to watch her first love die from this terrible disease. I would watch my sister not know how to cope. But I wasn’t OK, and I needed to share how I was feeling. My husband was well aware that I needed help and got me in to see a therapist and on some medication. I’m not too proud to share I suffer from OCD and anxiety. Those are obstacles I face but they do not define me. Going to therapy shifted my outlook on life, and it was my therapist Sally who made me shift my focus on time to appreciation of it.
I still see my therapist when I need to, I still take medication and I am sharing this because during a year like this when we are all going through so much change, and more than likely loss, we can chose to pretend all is well or we can be honest. This year during COVID-19 I lost a close college friend in a tragic car accident, my artistic teacher friend to cancer, my cousin and my uncle, and it was so much easier for me to grieve them at home without an elaborate service. Though services were held for all of them, I only attended my two family members. You can call it selfish, but I chose to dedicate a day to mindfulness to think on everything my two friends taught me as well as the experiences I had with the family members I lost. I looked through photos, and shared them with family and friends, and I cried. I actually cried a lot, and you know what that’s something pre-COVID Loraine never did. I usually would suck it up and play the tough card, cry for five minutes top but never fully let it out. This year I learned that it its 100 percent OK to grieve. No one can tell you what emotions are right and wrong to have because they are your emotions. It’s so much easier to do alone instead of in front of strangers that you don’t know or normally see. Trust me when I say this: no matter your religion or belief, these people lived and they gave you a gift of sharing pieces of themselves with you, so appreciate them, remember them and talk about them.
My three children know all about my father and my grandfather because I talk about them. They may not physically be here, but they have lived and had experiences with me that I will share with my children to keep them alive. They know that when Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” comes on the radio, we all dance like Pop-Pop Jim (crazy, flailing our arms and shaking our butts) as well as when I make a pasta on Sunday, I’m making gravy like Grandpop Mike. I hope after reading this you feel empowered to not focus on time but appreciate it too. Sometimes you may just need to lean on someone and share to get through the rough stuff. Don’t be afraid to feel the emotions, just let them out.
I look forward to hearing from each and every one of you when I share my stories here. I hope we can meet here again next month.
Loraine Griffiths is a fifth generation Hammontonian, graphic designer, wife and mother of three. She can be reached through email at LifeWithLoraine@gmail.com.