To say my boys and I are movie buffs is an understatement. Some of our family time is spent hanging out on Friday evenings, where you’ll find us making home-made pizzas (gluten-free, of course) and gathering to watch a movie.
Of course, being teenage boys they like action movies, war movies and some psychological thrillers. Occasionally I can get them to watch a movie more geared toward my taste- but I’m used to having to compromise. I did when their dad was alive, because – not surprisingly- he chose the same genre of movies the boys like now!
Going out to the movies is another family favorite and when “Fast & Furious 7” opened we couldn’t wait to go see it. While I had read in the newspaper reviews about the ending, I certainly didn’t think it would have the impact on me that it did.
Who would’ve thought a fast-paced action movie could touch the very essence of my grief and leave me sitting in the theater, watching the credits, with tears streaming down my face?
But that’s exactly what happened a few weeks ago. If you’re not familiar with the “Fast & Furious” series, it’s about illegal street racing, complicated heists, characters living large and many unbelievable stunts that get more daring with the each movie.
There’s humor, suspense and good old-fashioned rooting for the good guys, even when the good guys are ex-convicts. Not exactly a recipe for a tear jerker!
So why the tears?
The final scene paid tribute to the late actor, Paul Walker, who was killed last year in a car accident. Filming of this movie was still taking place at the time of his death.
As the final scene opened, the song “See You Again,” by Wiz Khalifa began to play. It starts with a beautiful melody played on the piano that filled the theater, followed by lyrics that sounded as if they were written for me and said exactly what I wish I could say to my husband, Larry, who passed away over four years ago. As soon as I heard the first line, the tears began to flow and spill down my cheeks.
“It’s been a long day without you, my friend, and I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.”
Even more touching was the sadness and pain reflected on the faces of all the actors in the last scene. Walker’s death was well publicized and some of the actors spoke about how much they would miss him. This all happened before the last scene was shot, so I knew the expressions on their faces weren’t faked: the pain I saw etched on their faces was real. And I know… Because it’s a pain you recognize and one you never forget.
Yes, it’s been a loooooong day: over four years of long days, in fact.
I still have my moments when I find it hard to believe it’s been over four years since Larry died. Four years that I’ve spent a majority of each waking day trying to make conscious choices to heal. Four years of taking a step forward, two steps back, and another forward. Four years of doing my best to raise three boys on my own. Four years that led me to the path I’m on, that of- sharing my grief with others.
Yes, it’s been a long day without you, my friend.
Why would a movie and tribute for someone I didn’t even know move me so much?
Grief, you see, is a universal language. No words are needed to understand and feel compassion for those who also face grief.
When grief comes into our lives it’s humbling; when we see grief enter into the lives of others it’s a reminder of our own struggles. Grief connects us all.
So each time I’m confronted with the sudden and tragic death of another person (whether I knew them or not), all the feelings I felt immediately following Larry’s death come rushing back.
It’s my belief there’s a natural order to life: we’re born, we have our childhood, we become adults, we raise families, we enter our golden years and, since none of us can escape death, we eventually pass on. Death- even at an older age- is very sad, but when it happens out of the “normal” order of life, it’s tragic.
That’s how I feel about Larry’s death: it was a tragedy for him, and it’s still a tragedy for me and for our children. And that’s how I feel when I get the very sad news that another person has died unexpectedly: it’s tragic.
While I’ve tried not to ask why, I’ll admit that in moments of despair I’ve wondered if there was a reason for Larry’s death. Some reason- any reason, really- that I would somehow be able to comprehend as long as I’m a mortal woman walking this earth. Will the answer ever be revealed to me, even after I’m dead and gone?
What makes me ask those questions? Because during my deepest despair, all I want to do is scream: “Someone please tell me my husband didn’t die in vain! Please tell me he didn’t leave me and our children to fend for ourselves for no reason!”
After these difficult moments (and as you can see, I still have them), when the heavy cloud lifts and I can stand up and take another step forward, I take a minute and quietly remind myself that- Larry didn’t leave me on purpose, it was completely out of our hands. And, truth is, there’s no reason on this earth that can help take away the pain I feel knowing Larry died before he was able to guide our boys into adulthood.
So no, there isn’t a reason good enough for me. Maybe that’s why the answer will never be revealed until my time has come. And I have to accept that during this lifetime I will never know why.
The difficulty comes in being able to accept there’s no making sense of the senseless. So my advice is this: don’t bother. Don’t waste the energy you will certainly need to heal.
In order for me to have all the energy that is required to move forward I must accept that I’ll never know the reason why my husband died too soon. I must also accept there’s only one life for me now, and sadly that doesn’t include him anymore- at least not on this earthly plane.
And that’s when I turn to my faith. Faith that there is a heaven and Larry’s in it. Faith that one day I will see him again. And I also think about what I’ll tell him when I do finally see him again.
Will I tell him it was too hard? That I couldn’t live my life without him in it because the pain was too great?
Do I tell him I did the best I could? That every day was a different day… Some good days, some bad days, but I did the best I could.
There’s another verse in the song I really liked, one that so eloquently states you should keep the faith.
“So let the light guide your way, yeah, hold every memory as you go, and every road you take will always lead you home.”
So I will live my life to the best of my abilities. I will certainly do what I can to take care of my body, my mind and my soul, and until my time comes…
I will enjoy life and I will collect as many memories as I can. And, God willing, I will be allowed to live long enough to see my boys grow up and start their own families, if that’s what they choose.
And when the day comes when I do see Larry again, this is what I hope to tell him:
“I raised our boys and they’ve grown into wonderful men.”
“I kept you alive by talking about you and sharing stories about you with our boys.”
“I did find joy and happiness as I healed.”
“I’ve been blessed to hold our grandchildren.”
“Thank you for waiting for me, I’ve missed you.”
So while it has been a long four years without my love, I really do hope, for my children’s sake and my own, I get quite a few more.
No matter what denomination you follow, I pray you will find the faith you need to live your life to the fullest, so when you meet the loved one who has gone before you, you can tell them all about it.
P.S. In the photo above Larry and I are scuba diving in Hawaii. It was my first time and I panicked, went back to the surface and left Larry waiting for me until I could gain composure. After some time I decided to give it another try. Knowing Larry could do it gave me courage to give it another go… That, and I didn’t want to face his teasing if I didn’t go back down! He brought a lot of love and adventure into my life!