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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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Always the Limp?

CS Lewis wrote that dealing with grief was like adjusting to life with one leg amputated. He said that our whole way of life changes, and that while we may get around pretty well, we will probably walk with a limp and have recurrent pain for the rest of our life. After his wife died, Lewis didn’t think he would ever walk smoothly again.

The deaths of loved ones do not simply remove them from our lives, as if their arrival and departure equal out. This is because we have changed because of them. They have become part of us, and part of us no longer functions in their absence.

After the death of someone close, life is not worse or better. It’s different.

A few years ago, a rockfall changed Happy Isles in Yosemite. If you haven’t been to Yosemite, Happy Isles might sound like an amusement area for children with cotton candy, hot dogs and even balloons. In reality, this is where the wild Merced River comes cascading down the steep canyon from the highlands and enters the valley. Three small islands sit in the middle of the river, and the area was named “happy” because of the cascading sounds of the river.

This was not an ordinary rockfall. Two blocks of granite, each 200 feet long and 25 feet thick, broke off near Glacier Point and fell 1800 feet, generating a wind of 174 mph that blasted a thousand trees down. When the slabs hit the ground, they pulverized and buried a section of the pine forest, as well as a trail that I loved to hike, under a pile of granite rubble. The force of the impact generated a 2.1 earthquake.

Before the rocks fell, Happy Isles was a deeply shaded glen. I’d stop in if I was hiking in the area, walk over a small bridge unto the islands, eat lunch there in the cool shade, and listen to the sounds of the water dancing around me.

Without the trees, the islands are now open, airy to the sky and warm.

It had been Evelyn’s favorite spot in the valley, but the place that she loved is gone. It's beautiful again, but in a different way, and I cannot be there without thinking of her absence or of the beauty that is no more.

This reminds me of the Dr. Who episode where a human (Oswin Oswald), who had been captured by the Daleks on their asylum world, thinks that she has been able to fend them off for a year rather than be assimilated. But unknown to her, most of her has been physically converted into a machine. Through force of will, she has been able to keep her mind, spunk, and humor going.

Part of me died when Evelyn died, and the journey through grief changed me. Each day I am reminded of this in some way. I see the world through different eyes, and although I love again, it’s with a different heart.

Sometimes I wonder how much of my old self has survived.


Deborah Greene wrote movingly about her father’s death and the Japanese art form kintsugi, a method of restoring broken pottery with a lacquer of precious metal. You can read her March 18 post, “On Grief and Brokenness” at http://reflectingoutloud.net/2016/03/18/on-grief-brokenness/

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