If there’s one thing I’ve learned since launching Extra Grace Required, it’s that I’m not alone. So many of you are also stumbling forward after loss. You experience many of the same emotions I do. Sometimes they are the unspoken heartaches I think no one would understand, but you do. This is our tribe. We get each other.
When the Chicago Cubs won the pennant Saturday night, I was filled with a confusing mix of emotions. There was so much excitement and joy dampened with great big sadness because Mark wasn’t here to share the moment. And boy was it a moment he would have enjoyed! Overwhelmed and confused by this emotional juxtaposition, I reached out to one of my readers, who also happens to be my cousin’s widow. (sorry to use the “w” word but sometimes it’s the best descriptor we have).
Mark was a huge Cubs fan, but no one loved the Cubs more than my cousin, Dennis. I had a suspicion Val was feeling sorrow in the middle of this exhilarating and historic victory celebration as well. I wanted to see if I was crazy or if she was feeling it too.
I invited Val to share her thoughts with us today about how a National League pennant could spark both elation and deep grief. Give her some Extra Grace Required love by leaving a comment or sharing the post with your favorite Cubs fans. I know a lot of us are missing loved ones who loved the Cubbies – tell us about them. Now, without further ado, let’s hear from Val:
Go Cubs, Go! – a guest post by Val Hoefle
It is hard to know exactly when it happens, but there is a certain point in a relationship when his passion becomes your passion. For me, it was in the late 1990’s when I realized that I no longer looked forward to Saturday afternoon Cubs games because it meant a nice long nap, but because Dennis and I would be spending hours together cheering for the same thing…a Chicago win. At the end of the game, we would experience the same excitement or disappointment based on the outcome. For as long as I can remember, Dennis would say all he wanted to see in his lifetime was the Cubs winning the World Series. Although there were years they performed better than others, he unfortunately never got to witness his Cubbies earn the title of World Champions in this lifetime.
Saturday night the Chicago Cubs won the National League Championship to advance to the World Series. Amidst my cheering, laughing and tears of joy one question kept running through my mind… How can a heart soar and break at the same time? I was fortunate to live the moment with my 11 and 6 year-old sons who cheered and jumped and hugged and yelled with me as late as I would let them, but the hole in the celebration was glaring. I realized that the tears running down my face weren’t entirely filled with happiness. Grief and sadness came spilling out more fiercely than they have in a long time. Truthfully I made the boys go to bed earlier than they probably should have because I needed to process the emotions that were overwhelming me.
Dennis and I had so many amazing memories going to Wrigley, sometimes just us other times with groups of people. Or going to Principal Park to watch the Cubs’ AAA team, the I-Cubs where we’d watch players rehab before heading back up to Chicago or work their way up to a major league position. Or sitting in our living room yelling at the TV like we were actually in the stands. Or sitting in the driveway after arriving at our destination until Ron Santos and Pat Hughes called the final play, much to the amusement of the friends or family we were visiting. The Chicago Cubs culture and loyalty were completely engrained into our lives.
Here’s where the joy comes back into the story and crushes the grief. I know without a doubt that when Dennis walked through Heaven’s gates he experienced the Cubs winning the World Series! He already had experienced the greatest victory possible! He has seen the W flag flying every day since he left his earthly home that cold December day in 2011 because his faith in God was even greater than his faith in his favorite professional baseball team. Jesus flew the W for us all way before it flew at Wrigley.
It won’t be long before we know whether Chicago can pull off a World Series Champion title, but regardless, I will continue to cultivate our passion for our Cubbies and instill that passion in our sons. We will honor Dennis’s love of the game and his never-ending hope in the greatest victory. That hope overcomes grief and joy fills the glaring holes.
Let’s go, Cubs!