Photo: Lone Tree that caught Brady's eye
As I sat down to write this morning, I found my time taken up instead by perusing old writings. I have several book beginnings (but no books), many journal entries, and columns written for newsletters, magazine submissions, and this blog. Reading through my writings on grief, I was taken back to the earliest days and the heaviness of that time. I'm grateful I penned much of it, because already I'd forgotten some things. I only wish I'd written more, and more often. It is good to remember.
Somehow, that's a difficult thing for me. I can recall emotions and feelings and senses about things, but not necessarily the particulars. Those are better kept by journaling - if only I'd stick with it more regularly. One particular journal entry I titled, "Expressions." I share some of it now for the beauty it contains, a small memory of the kids and some ways they processed their own grief during the intense, early days.
"My life is a topsy-turvy inner struggle right now, as I shut out the world and wrestle with the demons death has rained upon me. I'm having incredible dreams, and so many thoughts are visiting, so many things to ponder, memories to revisit, new feelings and experiences and perspectives to absorb and sit with... I feel like I've shed my old skin, and it will be amusing to see what my new skin looks like in time. For now, I am home - tending my mother, making muffins, barely getting dressed, and screening my calls. I feel like I'm visiting every ounce of sadness I've ever known, and taking the long rest that I've needed for a long, long time.
The kids' expressions of grief have been incredibly moving and powerful, even when they seem simple. My niece Ana (7) wrote a letter to my mom asking if she should sleep with her, and she drew a picture of grandma alone in bed and wrote "Lonely Grandma" above it. Niece Maddie (4) drew a picture of her and Papa John, with hundreds of tears streaming down their cheeks and onto the ground, even though she had declared, "Everyone is crying for Papa so I'm not going to cry." My son Brady (13) says he has conversations with his grandpa, and feels comfort in hearing his voice. He also decided to play basketball because Papa John had just taught him how to shoot baskets, 4 days before he died, and told Brady he is a natural. And my son Jonathan (9), true to his quirkiness, picked all the hard-boiled egg pieces out of his tuna sandwich, formed them into a sad face on his plate, and said, "This is my face ever since Papa John died."
I worry about my mother, and that gives me reason to rise in the morning and something to tend to. She is so scared and lost. There is no place where Dad's absence isn't deeply felt - he was everywhere, very very present. Funny, we used to complain about it.
Dad was quite the busy-butt, and he was *everywhere*. So his absence is so great and obvious and painful. There were 2,000 people at his visitation! I met people whose names I'd heard my entire life, since Dad was quite the storyteller. I only wish I'd met them under different circumstances, of course. Oh how Dad would've loved all his favorite people in one spot. He was a tried and true extrovert, who loved everyone he met. So many people said to me that Dad was the only person who ever treated them like they were human beings. The outpouring of love and sentiments and stories has been very healing, and very surprising. I knew Dad knew many people, but really.... "
The days have grown a bit easier, finally... the highs get a little higher each time, while the lows catch me more and more by surprise when they strike. The other day I attended a conflict resolution session, sure to be rife with emotion. I was fine up until the moment I walked in, when I suddenly felt very weepy. It seems I can operate if things are on an even keel, but if I have to dig into anything, it slices me wide open. This fragility is difficult.
And on we press.