July 29, 2013

Reconciling Losses

Deuth,-Dave-colorBy David W. Deuth, CFSP
President, Weerts Funeral Home

I was in college. Some things were simpler then. Some things weren’t.

I had driven to the grocery store, probably to stock up on my staples: peanut butter, bread and some good ol’ macaroni and cheese. No one asked if I wanted “paper or plastic”… plastic grocery bags hadn’t arrived on the scene just yet.

My hands were full as I returned to my car. There were no keyless remotes to unlock the car door back then, so I sat everything on top of the car and fumbled for the keys in my pocket. After unlocking the door with the key, I scooped the grocery sacks from the roof of the car and headed back to my dorm room.

After lugging the grocery sacks up four flights of stairs, I unpacked my treasures. As I was enjoying a very superbly crafted PB&J, my contentment turned to panic with a very painful realization: I couldn’t find my checkbook. I must have left it on top of the car with the grocery bags when I was unlocking the car!

Suddenly, the PB&J that had been on my mind since that Microbiology lecture ended two hours ago wasn’t even registering on my radar. I needed to find that checkbook.

I retraced every step down the stairwell in my dorm. Nothing. Checked the front desk at the dorm; nothing had been turned in. Carefully, I walked back to my car in the dorm parking lot, my eyes scanning every inch of the sidewalk and adjacent yard. Nothing.

I drove back toward the grocery store in slow motion, my eyes scouring every inch of the trail I had taken only minutes previous. I even stopped the car a couple times and got out to look around in the street and nearby yards. Still nothing.

As I pulled back into the grocery store parking lot, I was getting nervous. Back in those days, we were encouraged to have our driver’s license number printed on our check blanks. I don’t recall, but my SSN may have even been printed on the checks – absolutely unconscionable today. I didn’t have much money in account, that’s for sure, but I knew it could be real bad news if the wrong person got a hold of that checkbook.

Back at the grocery store, I parked the car in a distant parking spot and walked around the lot, my eyes glued to the ground. I even went into the grocery store and asked if anyone had found a checkbook by chance? Nope.

More determined than ever, I headed back out to the parking lot. I just had to find that crazy checkbook….and I wasn’t going to rest until I found it. I scoured the parking lot again and again. Finally, as I was about to give up hope and head back to my car, I caught just a glimpse of the corner of that familiar checkbook…mostly hidden beneath a parked car.


I floated back to my car and drove back to my dorm room as if on a cloud. As I flung the door open, I immediately saw my unfinished PB&J waiting on my desk. And it tasted even better than before…

We have all kinds of “loss experiences” in our lives, don’t we? Certainly, the loss we experience when someone we love has died can’t possibly compare to losing a checkbook or car keys or a credit card.

But isn’t it interesting that we’re hardwired with a need to reconcile our losses? From the moment that I realized my checkbook was missing, I did what most anyone would do: I set out to find it. Determined and resolute, I was both insistent and persistent that I would do whatever was necessary to reconcile that loss. I was GOING to find that checkbook!

By contrast, isn’t it interesting that we don’t often approach the reconciliation of loss this same way when someone we love has died? Somehow, it doesn’t seem as natural to hone the same steely determination to “go after” the hard work of reconciling this most monumental of losses in our lives.

And yet, if only we COULD do that – if only we COULD somehow find it within ourselves to actually embrace that loss and plow the hard soils of working through our grief instead of against it – then perhaps we would come to the realization that when embrace our grief, we actually take charge of it…and if we don’t, it usually ends up the other way around.

Yep, a lot of things were simpler back when I was in college. And even though we’ve changed from paper to plastic at the grocery store, and even though we have key fobs to remotely unlock and even start our cars, and even though there are microchips and iPad apps to help us find our lost cell phones, car keys and credit cards…some things are no simpler now that when I left my checkbook on top of my car at the grocery store back in the early 80s.

We’re still hardwired with a need to reconcile our losses. But it seems that we’re also hardwired with a way to do just that. If only we will.

Remember Well.