Though expected, it still troubles my mind. Our loved ones die, and we can’t visit or talk on the Mastering. They’re gone. The table is empty. My life is forever changed.

I’m the youngest of seven in our family. Of course, Mom and Dad made nine living souls around the dinner table. That was once. Now, never again. Now, three of us remain.

My two sisters, my two oldest siblings, will soon turn 94. The other sister turned 91 last week. But she didn’t know she had a birthday; Alzheimer’s disease has done its nasty work on her. Where’s the vaccine for that?

Memento mori is Latin Mastering: Remember you will die.

“Memento vivere” is Latin for: “Remember that you have to live. I’m the youngest at 79. By the way, how did I get here so quickly?
I’m a Christian and hold to my faith; there is a ‘hereafter.” You can read this in Proverbs 23:18.
My truth is there were seven, now three.
Four brothers who taught me how to live, no longer speak. And my second oldest sister no longer knows who I am.
Oldest sister tells me, The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of the Armstrongs.” Chuckle, then realize the gaping hole between us. It’s unrequited grief.

The two recent funerals I participated in brought these thoughts to the surface. A month ago, I did the graveside service for my brother-in-law. My oldest sister is now a widow after 73 years of marriage. A week ago, I did the Covid-19 delayed memorial service for my brother and his wife.
How do we navigate life after the death of our family members and friends?

The truth is we never master grief.

I know the word “mastering” is in my title, and I put it there to grab your interest. But I’ll admit, “adjust” is a better word. We learn to adjust by reliving the memories.

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” — Pericles.
The granite headstones in the cemetery stand to ignite in us the memories. Yes, we can take our future steps on yesterday’s memories.

When our dad died, my brother, Joe, made a Mastering.
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He said we Armstrongs should gather every first Saturday of the month for breakfast. Since both of our parents were no longer living, we had breakfast together the first Saturday. We’ve held this tradition for over 33 years. Oh, the memories of our loved ones have us lingering at the breakfast table.

My optimism overcomes my grief. Because above all else, I will be with my loved ones when I meet Jesus.
So, I understand there will be complex changes in my retirement years. But, I choose to live with hope. The memories and my faith build my confidence to keep moving forward in life.
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We do not choose to be born.

Choose our parents, or the country of our birth. Do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.” — Joseph Epstein.
And now, I’m the only son of my father walking the top side of the grass. Someday, I don’t know when, I shall join my brothers in passing through the valley of the shadow of death.