Commemoration, Grief, Celebration

The Lives They Loved is a series I wish I had known about before today. Still, now I can read what others have posted about those close to them that they have lost in the past year, taste these slices of life. I’ve had many conversations lately with people about how we neglect our grief in the United States…disregard it, pretend it is gone just as the body disappears, out of sight, ignore it in public while it tugs on our minds like a persistent child at our hems. I’ve not had a grief so close to me in my adult life like some people I know, but there have been some departures that make me see what’s to come. I’ve lost some colleagues, some old friends that I have not seen in years that I truly enjoyed knowing but was not very close to for long; not a parent, really (although there is the biological father I never met who died when I was about ten, the adopted father who has been out of my life since I was about thirteen; all in all, my therapist disagrees…I’ve mourned the loss of parents since I was set off  at birth, first to foster care, then to my current family).

I lost my grandfather but could not fully understand it at 18 (even if it was not my first death), when I was in my first year of college. When my mother and I arrived at his house late in the night, my uncles gathered there, my grandmother was huddled up, tucked into her sorrow on the couch. It was one of the first and only times I’ve seen her cry. My mother said, “Go see your grandmother.” Dutifully, but afraid of the open expression of sadness from the toughest woman I have ever known (who is still going, about to turn 87 in a few weeks), I whispered a meek and useless, “I’m sorry, Grandma,” through my own tightening throat, as I leaned down to kiss her cheek.

So while this series is now a closed submission, we can all still follow in its path. Write a snapshot, even a six word memoir, a haiku, a short list of jagged associations, memories, qualities or characteristics alongside a photo of someone you have lost. The genre, style, appropriateness, and grammar do not matter. All that matters is honesty. There is no one, right way to grieve, and the process is unending as we lose parents, children, close friends and beloved pets. There is little sense to death for any of us, especially if we choose not to acknowledge it and are sheltered from it in a culture where it becomes completely private, although surely many of us are enduring it each moment, in sharp or soft, but often unexpected thoughts, every day.

We need to make time and space to let our mortality enter into our lungs with breath, as it does and is doing, even when we cannot feel it, or when we choose to allow it without acknowledgement. Don’t we all, in our passing through each others lives, through this one sure life, deserve that much?

Related links (I include these authors’ works on death in one of my classes):

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation

Jessica Mitford’s “Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain”


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