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A Wigwam for a Goose's I
on grieving 
6th-Mar-2012 09:16 pm
A friend of mine died of cancer this week. Paul was a buddy from Clarion, a well-loved writer and friend.

Others have paid tribute to him eloquently.  I can't do better.
The small things that were just us, as friends, I'm still holding to myself.

So instead let me speak to you of some things I know about grieving. It's where I am right now.

One: Nothing prepares you.
I learned this when my mother died.
She'd been in intensive care, gravely ill, for two weeks. We were at her bed, waiting. The machines had been stilled. My hand rested on her leg. I felt the moment when her body stopped and she was gone.

You can see a death coming like a semi trailer, horns blaring, lights flashing, and you can tell yourself that you know how it's going to be. And you hope that somehow, the driver will crank the wheel, and miss. You know in some part of yourself that it's not likely. Still.
Nothing prepares you. The truck hits.

Two: Speak up.
Kelly, my god-daughter, would have been 37 today.
When she died, I was far away -- in a foreign country, under a strange tongue, amid distant customs. I found out too late. And I should have phoned her mother, but I didn't. I told myself others were closer, better equipped to help. I was wrong.

Someone dies. Maybe you tell yourself that it's silly to call, to send a card, that the survivors don't know you very well or at all, that there will be so many other well-wishers, that you don't want to intrude, etc. etc..

None of that matters.

When someone dies, those who are left behind are plunged into darkness. All the cards and emails and fb posts and calls, though exhausting and repetitive and hard, are flickers of light in that darkness, reminders that out there, somewhere, life is going on.

Find a memory that's alive. Make a tiny flame of it.
Send it, in the form of a card, or an email, or a phone call.
Don't delay.

Three: Regret.
It's unavoidable.
Try to avoid it.

Four: Remember to forget to remember.
People have written libraries on the work of grief and memory.
Here's one thing I know.

When someone you love dies, you spend the rest of your life learning how to navigate around the pain that their absence marks out in your life. Eventually, the route around the biggest holes becomes autonomic -- you won't have to think about swerving. The holes don't disappear. Sometimes new ones appear. Sometimes you stop, and visit at them a while. But it's better if you don't linger.

Now maybe the things that you know about grieving are different. It wouldn't surprise me. Like writing a novel, losing someone you care for does surprisingly little to prepare you for the next time, and every loss, like every life, has its own shape.

Each death is incommensurable.  And each is a reprise.

In memoriam
Paul Haines (1970-2012)
Betty Waring (1927-2010)
Kelly Weatherall (1975-2005)
Dan Waring (1923-2001)
Mary Teylouni (1930-1988)
6th-Mar-2012 09:03 pm (UTC)
Beautifully said, and very wise.
6th-Mar-2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Karen. To be honest, I could do with a little less getting of wisdom.
7th-Mar-2012 02:45 am (UTC)
A fine post, Wendy, and good advice. I know what you mean about less getting of wisdom. They say you never stop learning lessons along life's journey, but sometimes the lessons come a bit too thick and fast!
7th-Mar-2012 06:49 am (UTC)
Thanks, Chris. It's funny, you know, I started out meaning just to testify, but I end up delivering a lecture. It's the inner schoolmarm in me, she just won't be stifled.

Thick and fast, indeed. I wonder, if this isn't the worst part of aging - not the bad eyes, wonky knees, or the way young people's eyes glide by when you're talking - it's pace of departures picking up speed. Sorry, that came out a little baldly, but you know, there it is. Anyways, I guess we can be forgiven for a little moroseness these days.
6th-Mar-2012 10:36 pm (UTC)
Beautifully, and truthfully said, although I'll add to the first, even if you've been praying for the truck to hit, for years, you're still not prepared.
7th-Mar-2012 07:01 am (UTC)
It can be like that, can't it? And it's still a bloody big truck, isn't it? And then there'd be that guilt bulldozer that comes behind straight afterwards.
9th-Mar-2012 07:20 am (UTC)
yes it can, and yes it is. And the bulldozer is a really mean one. *g*
7th-Mar-2012 09:05 am (UTC)
Well said Wendy. *hug*
7th-Mar-2012 09:21 am (UTC)
hugging right back.
16th-Mar-2012 08:41 pm (UTC)
This is lovely Wendy. Today would have been my Dad's 83rd birthday. He died 15 years ago. It's hard to imagine him gone that long. Your Dad went not long after...He died February 17, 1997. I miss him every day (as I miss Betty, Dan and our beloved Kelly) and all the others who have left us: Auntie Phyllis, Auntie Marj, my beautiful mother-in-law - Netty, Tanta Joanna ...too many.
17th-Mar-2012 04:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Lee. Too many is so right. Way too many.
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