When Stephen Colbert was ten years old, he lost his father and two of his brothers in a plane crash. He spoke about it recently with Anderson Cooper.
Cooper said “You told an interviewer that you have learned to, in your words, ‘Love the thing that I most wish had not happened.'”
"What do you get from loss?" asks Stephen Colbert, discussing grief with @andersoncooper. "You get awareness of other people's loss, which allows you to connect with that other person, which allows you to love more deeply and understand what it's like to be a human being." pic.twitter.com/QWszIC8J8M
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) August 17, 2019
My mother was 57 years old when she passed away. I was 26. And what Colbert told Cooper hits very close to home.
I live a privileged life. I married my best friend, I have an incredible son (another one due any minute), a beautiful house, and a job that I love. And they’re all a part of my life because my mom isn’t. This is a hard circle to square.
Grief is a strange thing in the sense that we all experience it and yet we rarely talk about it. I’m not necessarily saying we should by the way. I mean, I get it. It’s hard and it’s uncomfortable and who wants to open old wounds. My wife’s father passed when she was in third grade. We know what this pain is and it’s not like we spend much time talking about it.
For a long time after my mother passed, I thought about her all the time. But fortunately, the thing about deep wounds is that time heals them all. It’s cliché for a reason. If I experienced the same level of grief in perpetuity after I lost my mom, it would eventually become impossible to get out of bed in the morning. The pain gradually recedes.
But every now and then something triggers her memory. Music is one of the strongest triggers. Colbert spoke about songs that will undo him in an instant. Songs he heard the summer in the year of the accident.
Thirty-seven days after my mother died, I was in my car listening to Howard Stern. I’ll never forget where I was or how I felt when I heard this. This song will undo me in an instant.
It’s hard to acknowledge that something that felt like a curse could also be a blessing. It took me a while to make peace with this.
I still cry for my mother, but I’m able to smile knowing how happy she would be that I learned to love the thing that I most wish had not happened.