I Am an Orphan

My status as an orphan, or someone who has lost both parents, is not unusual.  Many people have lost one or both of their parents, especially when they have reached their sixth decade of life.  But because the English language doesn’t readily help us identify in what way we are bereft of our loved ones, I could like to coin some words to express this designation better.


In common usage are the terms maternal orphan, someone who had lost their mother, and paternal orphan, someone who has lost their father.  I like these terms much better than the more archaic term of half orphan, someone who has lost but one parent.


But what about someone who has lost their grandmother.  Should that not also have a term?  What about grand-maternal orphan or grandma-orphan for short?


And what of losing a grandfather?  Shouldn’t that be a grandpa-orphan?



And when cousins are lost, maybe we could say that we are cous-orphans and when siblings pass on, we become a sib-orphan.  And when we lose a child, we could say that we are a kid-orphan.


And what of losing a good friend?  We could then be a friend-orphan.


Then when we lose several of the these important people, we might say we are combination of these various types of orphans in addition to noting the number of people lost.


This means that I’m really an orphan proper (having lost both my parents), but also a bi-grandma-orphan, a bi-grandpa-orphan, a tri-cous-orphan, a deci-friend-orphan, and a uni-kid-orphan.



I do not use these terms lightly; I use them to show that many of us, in one way or the other, have a lot of loved ones and friends on the other side of the veil.


Because death is to difficult to deal with, I want to add my testimony those of many others that those we love and have lost are alive and well on the other side of the veil.  They are temporarily gone, but not vanished completely.  And in our losing, someone has gained.


When our little son died, I tried to imagine who might have come to greet him.  He had four of my grandparents that might have been there.  They had loved me well.  Would they not also embrace him in their arms?


He had my first cousin who had left four sons here on earth when she passed away just two years before, who might have been there.  And my own mother and grandmother passed away soon afterwards.  Did they to join him?  On and on the greetings might have continued.  And could our son, Evan, be considered a heaven-orphan, meaning that his parents were still on earth?



I have lost friends to sudden death and others to the slower agony of lingering cancer.  I have shuddered at the loss at not giving final hug and pled in prayer for the release of others who have hurt for too long and struggled too hard.



All in all, we eventually either go on before or are left behind to pick up the pieces.  Sometimes we are in the middle of the mess, alive but not really living because of the ongoing pain.  Sometimes we are onlookers grasping at threads of hope to help those who are devastated.


As the sun warms us in the morning and flowers bloom, may we all reach out to someone who is newly orphaned.  May we find someone who hurts worse than we do

and bring them flowers or smile at them or just wrap our arms around them.


Healing from becoming an orphan, whatever kind, takes time, lots of time.  Evan has been dead now for almost 20 years.  My mother and maternal grandmother have been gone for 18 years.  Other friends and family went before and after this concentration of bereftness in my life.


But still, it means the world to me when my sisters call on the anniversary of Evan’s death just to remember with me.  It means a great deal to be told that someone has taken flowers to Evan’s grave some 800 miles from when I now live.  It means so much that someone cares to hear the story, again, of why I loved him and how I still feel so tender on some brilliant, sunny mornings and yearn for him to run into the room with his bright smile.


But I know now, as I have learned with the rolling on of the years, that becoming an orphan, in whatever way it happens, is one of the most difficult of life’s lessons.  I also know that the hope of the resurrection is one of our most blessed blessings.


Each of us will be or already is an orphan and probably will be again and again in one way or another.  But, none of us needs to hurt alone or beyond our belief in the hereafter.  I believe.  I know.  And, I’m grateful others are still willing to let me cry occasionally when I have need.  Sometimes it can be a long day when you are an orphan.



May we find new courage to face loss, to help others who are grieving, and to believe with greater hope in the hereafter and the eventual reunion those we love.  At that moment, we can forever banish from our language the word “orphan.”



~Photos from sxc.hu.  Used with permission.



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