The funny thing about losing someone is that you might not realize it right away. It’s something that might only hit you days later, possibly weeks. In my case, I went to the post office.
For whatever reason, I met this person at the post office a lot. In fact, more there than any other place in town. He was an active member of the community, even through a serious illness, often being more active than you would expect from someone who was visibly sick. But, somehow, in the past several years it was the post office were I saw him the most often.
So, unlike a lot of people, I didn’t really feel his loss for a while after I heard about it. When I first got the message I was in a gas station in Wadena. I spent the next week not really thinking about it, aware of the loss but not how it affected me specifically. I knew it had happened, but I didn’t really feel the impact yet. I was busy worrying about family events, about moving around the province, about doing whatever it is I was going to do that week.
Then I had to go to the post office, to pick up a parcel. There wasn’t a line or anything, and as I walked towards the counter, that’s when I realized they were gone, and I finally felt the loss that I really hadn’t before. Getting mail had suddenly become sadder, which is a sentence that I didn’t expect I’d ever write.
I don’t know how other people experience grief, but I find that can be sudden, unexpected and strange. The right place, object or event could make me suddenly remember the person lost and what they meant, even if I hadn’t thought of them for a while.
In this case, it was the post office. Once, it walking through a flea market and spotting some pottery that someone I once knew collected. Once a bag of oranges reminded me of an old friend who dropped some off at my apartment years ago when he was told my fridge was empty - I mean, it was empty, but that’s more because I lived next door to a grocery store so I just bought food as I needed it, not quite as dire a situation as he had been led to believe. An old car made me think about my dad, and how he remembered it being something special way back in the ‘50s the first time he saw one.
And while it might make me sad for a moment, sitting with a memory for a while will bring me back around to being happy again. Sure, I won’t see those people again, but I used to see them, and they made my life better, whether they realized it or not. I hope that I improved their life in some way too, even if I’ll never know what my impact would have been.
Next time I go to the post office it won’t be so sad, because even if the loss remains fresh in my mind, I’ll instead remember what I gained from knowing that person, even if it was just a conversation in a post office, waiting to pick up some parcels.
Life is unpredictable, even if we don’t want it to be. Our minds are unpredictable too, latching on to the strangest memories and recalling them at unexpected times.
But maybe sometimes we need a sudden reminder of the people we’ve lost, so we remember that they’re still there, only in our mind, if we take the time to remember them.