The layers, the textures, of grief shift and change, deepen. The shock wears off and we are faced with this new reality. Still hard to believe. I’ve heard it described as ‘surreal,’ this life after death, and so it is. This existence that no longer resembles the past, though it feels like it should. In this inexplicable parallel universe, it is as if out of the corner of my eye, I can see that other life. I can catch glimpses of it when I’m not looking. - Mike sitting in his chair doing his crossword puzzles, while I do my morning pages on the couch. - Our evening strolls, arm in arm, to the corner grocery store where he would buy an ice cream sandwich and I, rather than buy my own, would steal nibbles of his as we walked home. - His ritual of recording five or even six soccer games each morning to watch over the weekend, while I continued to struggle to distinguish one team from the other. But when I look again, the chair is empty, the television silent, and I don’t walk to the grocery store in the evenings any more. Is it better to remember or less painful to forget…. ? I don’t know yet. There are days, still, when I literally don’t know how to breathe – great big gasping breaths that can’t seem to fill my lungs. But every now and then there are also moments when I laugh, deep belly laughs, I’d
Into this box – old paints and thinners and primers and stains and cleaners and brushes. Take it away. Into that box - broken phones and batteries, cords and cameras no longer blinking. Take it away. On the porch - books and clothes and more books and more clothes, and stuff and stuff and stuff. Take it away. Please take it away. And paintings from the walls, and dishes from the shelves, and papers and papers and papers. I beg of you, please take it away. Make it gone, gone, gone. Things that are torn, things that are worn. Gone. Gone. Things that are ripped and stripped. Gone. Gone. Old and ugly and stained and cracked. Gone. Gone. Make it all gone. Make it all gone! But then what? When the dust is settled and the room is clear… Then what? In the silence of the room, the cool of the porch, the softness of sheets and the call of the mockingbird, then what? In the quiet, in the space, then what? ..... Who knows. But now there is space to discover, a place to allow. Perhaps to cry Perhaps to stretch Perhaps to shape my body to claim the bed Clawing my way to space, to room, to breath, to stretch. Obsessing my way to silence, to peace, to grieving, to allowing. Reconfiguring, re-shaping, re-forming. My house, my heart, my life. So continue, Dear One. Follow the impulses. Make order Create space Allow room ....... For Whatever will unfold.
Several friends have likened the process of grieving to surfing. I understand the analogy. At times the waters are relatively calm and we can ride along. At other times, we are buffeted by tsunamis that threaten to drag us under. Yesterday, I discovered a third way – diving into the wave. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had issues around scarcity. I can attribute it to a father raised during the depression and a mother who lost everything when she had to flee the Nazis. Growing up, I would ping pong between my father’s ‘sky is the limit’ and my mother’s frugalness. Over the years, through my own work and with my husband’s support, I came to trust that all would be well, that I would never end up homeless (sound crazy?). But with Mike’s death that surety came crashing down. The old fear reared its ugly head and all the mantras in the world and facts to the contrary could not shake the roaring panic I would lose my home. Yesterday, something in me cried out, “Enough! Look this beast in the face and let’s be done with it.” As if girding for battle, I made a fresh pot of coffee, turned off the phone, and sat down with pen and paper to take it on. Over the course of the next hour, I let my imagination meticulously roll out what it would be like see this fear come true. Word after word, I traced what
The Energy of Things This piece has been a while coming as I’ve looked about our home deciding what on earth to do with all of Mike’s things. “There is no rush, take your time. Things have energy and you will know when it is time.” This was the wisdom of Ziri Rideaux, the fabulous woman from Friends Funeral Home, who helped guide me through the process. As we sat there, Elise and I, trying to absorb this new reality, she reminded me that everything was energy, and that over time energy changes. There was no need to rush to do anything. When the time was right decisions would become clear. I have taken that to heart, trusting the impulses as they’ve risen up, noting my reactions to things, both his and mine. In some cases it was an almost violent “throw it away – NOW!” We had a comforter, losing feathers, ink stains, and for whatever reason he would not get rid of it. Morning after morning after he died I made up that bed, hating that damn comforter! Could not rest until one afternoon I dragged my mom off to Macy’s and found a beautiful quilt to replace it. Something eased inside when I spread out that quilt, white with blue flowers, over soft purple sheets for the first time. Then there were these crazy things, items I knew I would throw away, but just couldn’t touch yet. Before he went into the hospital Mike had been building me
Over and over I’ve expressed my great thanks to family and friends, old and new, for their amazing outpouring of love and support. Though not religious in any formal tradition, I’ve come to call them my angels and feel blessed to be surrounded by so many. But the story I'm about to share taught me that angels are everywhere, in all walks of life, all shapes and sizes, sometimes when we least expect it. It was a week after Mike had passed away and I was down in Santa Monica making my slow trudge to the pier. I literally watched my feet as I took one step and then another. In the early days I couldn't get further than a block or two. This morning there was an odd satisfaction that I had come as far as I had. As I neared the pier I noticed a homeless man in a bright poncho sitting on a bench, dozing. He had a sign there next to him: Rescue me. Help $ or Hugs. I walked past him and then stopped, turning around to look. Maybe it was the words ‘rescue me,’ that called, but I turned around and went back to sit next to him on the bench. “Hello.” I whispered as I watched him shake himself awake. “I don’t have any money.” Pause. “Would you like a hug?” He was alert now, looking at me, I’m imagining rather surprised at this nutty lady sitting down and offering him a hug. He
There Are No Words. I have heard, read, these words, “There are no words,” numerous times over the past few weeks. I understand the sentiment, have thought it at times when I had heard of someone’s loss. And yet words are what we have. To capture the ephemeral, explain the unknowable, describe the unimaginable. Words are what we have to say …. I love you. I miss you. You are my heart. What is the vastness of love? What is the depth of missing? How to describe the well of sorrow we tumble into as we are taken by surprise by his writing on the calendar? Though we may think there are no words, they are a gift. No matter how clumsy or awkward they may feel in the saying, they are a balm to the heart. They are the tangible expressions of caring, love, support, empathy. They are a reminder that we are not alone in our grief. They are the reaching out across the distance to hold us, heal us, bind us. And there are no words for the gratitude, deep and soft, for the outpouring of hugs and flowers and food and visits and cards and gifts and calls and more hugs. It has been a lesson in accepting. In saying yes. In saying simply, ‘Thank You,’ though that does not begin to capture the sentiment. There are in fact so many experiences in our lives, both beautiful and harsh, to which there truly are no words.