Paperwork: Loved ones leave behind more than memories in each of us

It happened again.

I had one of those moments when you want to punch “pause” on the remote and savor the words. But I wasn’t alone.

So I grabbed a pencil and paper and jotted a quick reminder: “1883 – Episode 6.”

The Western drama “1883″ – a prequel to the “Yellowstone” (Dutton family) series – is packed with great writing and acting.

I was drawn to a bit of worldly wisdom delivered by one of the main characters, Shea Brennan, a crusty, old cowboy and former Union Army captain.

He is leading a wagon train of German immigrants westward – and Dutton family ancestors. He carries a constant sorrow, the loss of his wife and daughter from smallpox.

He shares his grief with young Elsa Dutton, who has lost someone she loved.

Shea: “I know how you feel. A lot of people are going to tell you that. Whether it’s truth or not, I don’t know. But I know it’s true when I say it.

“I’ve sat right where you’re sittin’, thinkin’ the same thing. Thinkin’ I don’t want to live without them. Don’t see the point. Still do most days. But here I am, livin’ without ‘em.”

Elsa: “Why?”

Shea: “Well, my reasons be different than yours. I don’t have anyone left who loves me. You do. I’ll tell you a secret. I’ll tell you why I’m still suckin’ air today.

“I’m headin’ to the ocean.”

Elsa: “The ocean?”

Shea: “An Apache scout told me once when you love somebody, you trade souls with ‘em. They get a piece of yours; you get a piece of theirs. But when your love dies, a little piece of you dies with ‘em. That’s why you hurt so bad.

“But that little piece of him is still inside you, and he can use your eyes to see the world.

“So, I’m takin’ my wife to the ocean, and I’m gonna sit on the beach and let her see it. That was her dream. And I’m gonna see her. That’s my dream. ...”

I find myself collecting quotes that deal with the loss of loved ones. I think I am always searching for ways to comfort others … and myself.

Shea’s words ring true: “When your love dies, a little piece of you dies with ‘em.”

I have lost a lot of pieces over the last few years. Part of life is the dying.

But what a wonderful thought, that those who have passed remain within us … because we shared pieces of our soul. Our being. Our essence. That feels like a step above the memories we keep.

At holiday gatherings, birthdays and other family events, it’s common for someone to say, “Mom and Dad would have loved this day. This moment. Seeing this. Being here.”

What if they are? Inside you. Watching through your eyes. Hearing what you hear.

Is that crazy? Not any crazier than other things we believe in and hope for.

And it’s easy to believe in things that feel right.

Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. His Paperwork email is Or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.