The more I work on this blog, the more I realize how many hats I actually wear…well, metaphorical hats I figuratively wear. I also realize, more and more, I’m not the only one who has so many hats to wear. Sure, I may have worn one too many hats in my former job; however, donning the hats needed for everyday tasks is itself a task that most adults have to endure.
As I write this, I’m preparing to go to bed after spending the last few hours struggling with a plumbing issue. No, I’m not in need of a urologist…I mean actual drains and pipes. I have been wearing the homeowner’s hat. This particular hat is not the focus of this week’s post, though. It has only been a distraction from the hat that I have on my mind (see what I did there?). Today’s hat is the one you never see, again.
Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, I received the news of a death in my extended family. Not someone I’m related to, but the father of family by marriage. You’ve seen me gripe about my former position and I have, perhaps, eluded to how that position took away from me more than I want to admit. One of the things I was unable to do (while in that position) was attend certain family obligations. This time was different. Having absolutely nowhere to be than with my family, I made the ninety minute drive to spend a scant half hour with family and give my heartfelt condolences for the loss.
There’s a hat we all wear when someone dies. It’s a dressy hat, one worn with dignity and respect for the grieving family in the time of their loss. How often have I not thought, though, about the hats of the deceased. Where do they go? Does someone else pick them up and give them a home, allow their purpose to remain?
I looked at the John Deere ball-cap in the casket perched next to the pillow and realized that I would never see that hat, again. In a very literal sense, since the hat was being buried with the decedent, no one would see that hat, again. But, he wore so many hats: Husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, farmer, worker, veteran, friend, in-law…just to name what I know to be true. The hats unknown to me may number in the hundreds, for all I know.
And now…they are just hats.
His daughter told me his death felt like someone reached inside her and ripped a part of her away. I tried to say the right thing. I tried to be empathetic and sympathetic at the same time. I tried to let her, her brothers and sisters, her whole family know that I wished there were something I could do. In the end, all I could offer was the half hour.
The trip home was a reflective one. How we react to death is mirrored by what we believe about life. I thought about the John Deere hat and wondered what the rack would look like without it. By the time I got home, though, I could only think of one of my favorite quotes. While I don’t think it would have helped at the viewing; while it may have sounded like the same kind of know-it-all advice from well-wishers; while it may be simple, it is also powerful, and I hope my pain-stricken family can find peace in it’s simplicity.
Farewell, HR. I am better for having met you.