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Lessons Through Life And Loss
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There’s nothing easy about loss.

A friend once told me I had a gift for stating the obvious. Looking at that opening sentence I can’t help but acknowledge the truth of her observation. ‘Loss’ in and of itself is a big word, which depending on the circumstance can mean many things. Loss of a game, a piece of jewelry, a treasured keepsake, a friendship or a life – nothing about loss is easy. Oddly and fortunately, each of these things hold memories, a couple of them we recover from, the latter two, however, are a bit more difficult.

If I think real hard, I can honestly say, I began this life journey learning what it meant to ‘deal with loss.’ Raised by a single parent, with a father who chose never to be a piece of my path, a loss to some which to me was ‘just life.’ I was blessed by a mother who taught me to face all that life brings head on, hold tight to my faith, go gracefully (always) with my chin up and stay positive.

“Things could always be worse,” my mom would often remind me.

It is at the time of loss of life, when we may struggle most with my mother’s wisdom. Living in that moment, facing the reality of a life without a loved one, is perhaps one of life’s harshest realities. How will the days be the same, minus that special spirit?

The answer to that is simple: they won’t be. The days we lived prior to the loss will now be reserved to memories, storytelling and maybe a photo or two. The physical being leaves us, the power and beauty of their spirit and soul however is where the lesson and legacy lie.

This became apparent to me, most recently as I journeyed through the passing of a dear friend’s mother, known commonly by many as ‘Nan.’ As her mother struggled to feel ‘well’ again, her passing was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.

Yet there was a silver lining, as hard as it is to see and say, there was. While her passing was unexpected, it was not sudden. We learned of her final diagnosis on a Sunday and her pain was eased by the following Thursday. There was nothing easy for the family in the days between, nor those that followed. It did however give them each opportunity to say, feel and laugh over many things with Nan as she was still very much herself – that’s a gift.

Nan was the type of woman we should all strive to be. She was one of strength, grace, humor and positive outlook. She treasured her family, as well as her friends. She was a genuine, kind hearted soul that made anyone and everyone feel important to her – that’s a gift.

The purpose of this piece however is not to offer the eulogy of Nan (Dorothy Skinner), it is to share the lesson I learned as a result of her life and her passing.

Attending a funeral during the heart of the holidays is a bittersweet affair. Consoling a family a handful of weeks after Thanksgiving and a handful more before Christmas … tough.

Yet here we are and there we were, on a rainy December day, celebrating the life of a woman whose smile lit up a room and whose spirit comforted many.

As I looked around at her reception in a room packed full of people, my girlfriend approached me with her sister, both beaming with tear-filled eyes.

“She is looking down and is thrilled by this,” Nan’s eldest daughter shared. “She loved a party and this is a party.”

In that moment, I thought ‘yes it is’ and what a beautiful thing for those left with the pain, to feel so much love. For her children and grandchildren to hear stories and words from so many touched by this one life.

Then I thought of my own children. I thought of ‘the legacy.’ Not their mom, who many know as a ‘writer’ or a this or a that. I thought of their mom the ‘person,’ the choices that I make, the life I have the ability to live and the legacy I hope will be left.

What a gift Nan gave to her children in a time of sadness and sorrow. What a gift to have her life transcend her passing and give so much joy to her family.

As I listened and tried to wrap my mind around this beautiful family, minus Nan, I thought of how her life and how one simple person has the ability to change the lives of others.

And yet again ... that’s the gift. So as I face the coming week, only to be followed by the day I was given life (my ‘birth’day) and then a fresh new year, I am going to embrace the gift of loss. The lessons and inspirations we are to take from those moments. The reminders of what it means to be kind and genuine. The precious, fragility that we take so much for granted – the gift of life itself.

Our days are never promised. Our lives a road map leading many different directions. As we navigate we hit road blocks, speed bumps and beautiful valleys. If we pay close attention we learn as we navigate. We learn more in life than a traditional setting can ever teach us.

That’s what I gained from the life and the loss of the beautiful soul known as Nan. To her spirit and so many others, whose lives have taught those who loved them, I raise a glass – Live, Love and Laugh – the simplest of words with the power to change the world.

Be kind to one another –Ellen DeGeneres.


Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.