Shelter

Over the many years you were sick, from time to time, I would try to imagine what I would feel, how I would cope, if you died. It wasn’t a question of when, really, unless there was a setback and a new treatment protocol – a storm to weather. Then, that far off time would inch closer, only to retreat again until the next threat. Unfailingly, you lived for the day. More than anyone else, you taught me to seize it, and the people in it, with wholehearted exuberance. We were shelter – each to the other. I couldn’t possibly have imagined how I would feel, or deal. Your death is beyond precedent in my life, despite the deaths of many of our loved ones before it. And because there was, and continues to be, no cultural framework for learning about dying and grieving as skills, I find myself searching for some kind of community engaged in creating one.

Some friends and I were talking recently about the “club.” Like other clubs of similar ilk, the cancer club most notably,  it’s one you never want to join. But there you are, and you gravitate to others who can relate most keenly because of the magnitude of the death they’ve experienced. A death that levels you. Shatters any semblance of life as you knew it. They know what you’re talking about as you all nod your heads about death having its way with you. And what life is like now.

This is the company I seek, and have been fortunate to find, especially when I’ve needed it most. Companions with whom I feel a strange and comfortable refuge and authenticity, even if I don’t know them well. It’s unorganized, impromptu, and feels rather “underground.” It’s balancing, and clarifying, and loving. Like you, it’s shelter.

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