By Dottie Jo Menkhaus
In my journey as a motherless daughter, I have battled the fear of loss many times. It started when I was 13. My parents sat me down at the kitchen table and told me that Mom had cancer. I cried for an hour, afraid that she would die and I would lose her. Three years later at 16, I cried when my fears were realized and I lost her to cancer. Since then, I have treasured the moments I have with loved ones and feared losing them at the same time.
After the death of my mother, I looked to my grandmother (Na-na) and my great Auntie Shirl as mother figures and role models. They taught me lessons about life and told me stories about my Mom and of family history. Realizing the fragility of life, I tried my best to preserve these moments in my heart, because I knew they wouldn’t be with me forever.
As my Na-na aged and grew frail, my fear of losing her grew. I tried my best to prepare for the inevitable. In September 2017 while holding her hand saying the last good-bye, I found myself still not prepared. But I still had my Auntie Shirl. As my last surviving role model, I feared losing her. Every year I hopped on a plane and took a trip to visit her in sunny San Diego, CA. Each time we hugged good-bye before I left for home, I feared it would be the last. I always cried on the way to the airport and when the plane took off. I reminded myself that she was 14 years younger than my Na-na so we should still have a lot of time together before the last good-bye. Sadly, I was wrong. My Auntie Shirl passed away very suddenly three days after Christmas 2018.
These losses have left me feeling vulnerable and afraid of loss. I don’t want to lose any more loved ones, especially the role models I look up to. Satan knows exactly where I’m vulnerable. When I’m having moments of joy with them Satan whispers, “Don’t love them, don’t get close, you will lose them too.” So what can I do? What do I do when Satan strikes my heart with the fear of loss?
I have found comfort in an unlikely place—an episode of the TV show, The Big Bang Theory titled “The Proton Transmogrification.” A short scene in that episode helped me with Auntie Shirl’s passing and is a good reminder for when I fear loss. The character Sheldon Cooper is trying to process the passing of his dear old friend and mentor, Professor Proton. He has a dream where Professor Proton visits him and they have a conversation. Sheldon says, “My grandfather died when I was 5, my father died when I was 14…and now you’re gone too. It’s like all the men I’ve looked up to have gone away.” Professor Proton replies, “You know it’s okay to be sad about them. Just make sure you appreciate those who are still there for you. Appreciate them, Sheldon.”
I identify so much with that scene in The Big Bang Theory, that I’ve replayed it many times. I am Sheldon, those I’ve looked up to have gone away (and what I have now, I am terrified of losing). Professor Proton’s advice is spot on, grieve what you have lost, but appreciate and love what you still have. What else can we do? The answer is not to stop loving the people around you. When Satan strikes my heart with the fear of loss, I have to remember that with great love, comes great loss. It is part of life. I cannot allow the fear of loss to blind me from seeing those who are still here and to keep me from loving them until that last good-bye.