Those of you who have been around this blog for a while will know that this year hasn’t been easy on my family.
There have been marriages, and there have been births, but there has been loss.
A little over a year ago, my grandfather passed away. He was in his 80s, which is older than any man on his side of the family ever lived to see. He passed away a couple weeks before my wedding. I got to speak with him several times before he went, got to send him pictures of me in my wedding dress, got to tell him about my husband-to-be and hear him tell me how happy he was for us. He left this life surrounded by family, as loved as anyone can boast at the end of their time.
A couple months later, something happened that tore the ground out from under our feet. Short weeks before Christmas and a week after his thirtieth birthday, my beloved cousin was killed in a car accident. Even now, almost a year later, grief wraps round my throat like a boa constrictor. I have to force air past it, to breathe, to focus. Nate left behind a beautiful fiancee, her little boy who he treated as his own, and his precious baby girl who shares my name.
She turned one the day after his funeral.
Now my family is facing another loss, and there is a hollow, quiet place in my chest that hasn’t been able to process it.
A year ago, my grandmother and step-grandpa risked their health to be present at my wedding. My beautiful grandma made sure to bring me some of her most lovely jewelry, including a locket that bears two baby pictures: hers and mine. She was there, and she was so sweet and kind.
She nears the end of her life, and part of her has already gone. The last time I spoke with her, she couldn’t remember how old she was, but she remembered my husband and our wedding. And our wedding is how I shall remember her. So determined to be near me on my day, so warm, so joyful.
My grandmother is a painter, a singer, a sewer, a reader, a gardener. Over the past few years, she has given me art pottery and jewelry, but years before that she would send me flannel nightgowns and taught me how to make the world’s tiniest quilt. What I wouldn’t give to have that scrap of amateur fabric by my side right now. She took me to Epcot when I wanted to go to Disney World, and helped me gather sand dollars on the Florida beaches. With her I saw lizards run across the ceiling of her condo and alligators in the Everglades under the cypress trees.
It’s her name I chose to write under.
Grandpa. Grandma. Nate.
As I have said, this has been a difficult year full of loss. Nate’s baby girl is almost two now.
I’ve had a lot of occasion to think about loss and grief. I’ve heard everything from, “They’re in a better place” to silence. I personally prefer the silence.
After this year and years of loss before, there is one thing I can say about grief.
It has teeth.
For that reason, I believe, some faiths encourage people to rejoice in times of sorrow, but for me that has always rung hollow. Even when I had faith of my own, I couldn’t simply switch it off and picture friends at the right hand of gods.
Grief is, in some ways, the purest and most incapacitating emotion we can feel. And I believe we need to feel it. For me, regardless of what one believes comes after we close our eyes to this world, mourning does not change. Someone was here and is now gone, and for that I need to let myself miss them. I need to acknowledge the hole in my chest and the monster’s teeth.
Even when it eats away at me, I come out of it clearer, if sadder.
There are cultures where people scream their grief, keen their grief, wail their grief. We are a quiet-loss culture, but sometimes I wonder if just keep the noise inside.
We’ve all lost someone.
Grief is painful, but necessary, and it brings one gift on the heels of its devouring.
As we approach the holidays and prepare for turkey and cranberries and gifts and trees, allow grief to be a reminder of the joy that is to be found in this life. Joy with family, with friends, with the people whose lives you share. Be thankful, first and foremost, for every precious moment and laugh. For every bickering exchange, every childhood huff remembered when face to face with your mums and dads and siblings.
With the approach of Halloween (Samhain), there is always remembrance in the air for me. It’s just come a wee bit early this year. Light a candle for those you refuse to forget today, and may the brightness of the flame rekindle your memories and make them clear.
Who do you want to remember? Tell us about them if you want, and today we’ll remember them too.
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