Day 25: Carving Grief

Yesterday I was ambushed by grief.

In a coffee shop to my right was a judge reviewing cases with a red pen. To my left was a Kenyan-born immigrant who spoke six languages. Me, in the middle, heartily crying for my little love’s loss. It was Halloween, one of the days of the year, he woke up with his eyes alight and alive and the excitement of costumes and customs and candy coiled then springing into action.

I cried from fumes of sadness. From the sight of a pumpkin on the porch that I had no drive to carve. No jack-o-lanterns this year.  And I cried for the invitation to the class party that I did not receive. I cried for one less costume to stress and pull my hair out about not buying on time or building from orphans in the closet or finds at the thrift store. I cried a snotty-nose, red-faced cry.

And who do you think was the one who tried to talk to me? It was not the white-haired, wire-rimmed judge with his busy red ink.

But that’s fine. Because there are some days, like Halloween, when I don’t want to talk because I know that everything is wrong and there is no right. There is no justice. It is not fair. Words fail. There are sightings of dead black cats who liked to trick-or-treat with us. There are messages from friends that we love but have not connected with in months.

Who is making those connections? Who is drawing the dot-to-dot? Not me. I am too busy crying and weeping and wailing. It must be someone waiting. Waiting for me to return from this sadness, so that I can see him. Look through the wet, swollen eyes. Past the tears and the tea and the quiet. And move on to more. Is he waiting to play a board game? Did he move a white pawn and now its my turn?

Oh, the black tide of loss rolls in just like the Pacific. On time. Predicable. It saturates everything with saltwater and washes what we once knew away. But we still have our memories. The forts in our minds are strong. We’ve built sturdy and fine embankments.

What is the invisible form of my departed?  Is he wearing a Wily Wonka costume? Yesterday, for Halloween he was dressed as Captain America, again, just like his then eight-year old, now nine year old friends. They didn’t address me as “Mrs. Lill” or say anything, like, “I am so sorry for your loss. There are no words.”

They were themselves now nine and they just were. The were the visible forms of my departed. No red ink; they did not judge. They asked nothing. Instead they sat with me, in their classroom room, where I did not get an invitation to be, but they brought me, and him in, anyway. Sitting with me, speaking one language. Love despite loss.

They are the hearth in my soul where he sits. They remind me that he is here awaiting my return. All the time.

Today, I sit in a similar, but different coffee shop and I still cry. Its been twenty two minutes of writing. I don’t miss him any less because I miss him all the time. But I think I feel better. I think I won’t go home and smash pumpkins that never because jack-o-lanterns.

For Grief ~
by John O’Donohue

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks…
And you are thrown back Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.
It becomes hard to trust yourself.

All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.

More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal

And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air

And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

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