Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Coming Home After



Journal entry 35                                                                       
(The following is taken from my journal during the first year of grief.)

The shadows of the dead weigh heavy, like thick humid air when dark storm clouds approach.

I’m not in control anymore. Forces I can’t see push me around like an ocean. Every day life flows by but I can’t connect. Every few days people bring food and I eat. They send cards or call and leave messages that I won’t return. Words have lost their meaning. Colors mute to gray. Every day I excuse myself, sit on the side of the world and watch it flow by, unable to move, unable to care what happens to me or to anyone.

At the memorial service three weeks after Evelyn’s death, where family and hundreds of friends have gathered, I drift on a sea of numbness.

Barbara, one of Ev’s childhood friends, shares the eulogy: “Being with Evelyn was like opening a music box. Sometimes she was an aria from a Puccini opera—an exquisite, sometimes pain-filled melody of loss or longing, of passion and struggle, of love or grief. Ev could not hide her feelings, at least not for long. Then the honest, soaring melody lines of her life-—her arias—would break through and hang in the air in utter vulnerability, especially when life seemed truly unfair or complicated beyond solution. Evelyn’s arias gave voice to feelings we all have and so often hide.”
 “From a very early age, my children knew that if Ev were coming over, there would be laughter and silliness. Evelyn’s life music was full of grace notes—those surprising, sweet little notes that make melodies so rich and beautiful. And like a grace note, she was here and she is gone. I am not able to make any easy peace with her death. But I am reminded of a song, written by Natalie Sleeth, which begins There’s a song in every silence. We who have loved Evelyn must accept a moment’s silence, and then begin to listen for her new song to rise within us.”

The service ends with everyone singing the Yosemite-based lyrics I wrote for Ev to the tune “Beech Spring.” Patrick rings our Tibetan singing bowl. Its pure tone resonates for twenty seconds before it begins to fade.

People walk up, put a hand on my arm, and talk about how Evelyn took care of them, how they can’t believe she is dead in her forties. I listen, but I do not hear. They are hurting. I can see that. I can see that they care. Their sympathy is palpable with their own grief. But in my despair, later I won’t be able to remember what they said. They select a flower bulb to take home for their gardens, and it will grow and remind them of Evelyn’s touch in their lives. We planned on planting them later this spring when Ev was feeling better. Every year I teased her that she ordered 5,000 bulbs when we only needed fifty. But today, because of her habit of making sure we wouldn’t run out, we have enough for each family.

After the service we go our separate ways. I drive home to stillness. No one will be waiting for me. Each day I expect that there will be heart-rending sadness for an unspecified period. Each day I will think, “I miss Ev” and tear up. Each day I will get angry, yell, tear things apart, and want to run into a wall so hard that I knock myself out and can’t feel this damn despair anymore. 

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