12 weeks, and they have flown by, since I’ve posted here, Kissie. I’ve traced these months with memories so fragile and distinct; so immense and complex that I feel I’m standing at the sea waiting for the words to rush in and write me. So I go to my pen and paper and scratch out my feelings there, or on my walks in the early light, I speak to you, out loud. I say your name, and talk as if you are walking beside me, as we used to. I don’t ever want to stop saying your name — in fact, all your names: formal, informal, married, single, and best of all, your nickname. The name I gave you as a child when I couldn’t say Chrissy.
As time flows, no matter the measure, this blog remains close to my heart. It’s one of my ways to love you now.
Also as time flows, I find that I want more ways to grieve you and remember your life, not less. I notice I get angry and frustrated and impatient when I find these outlets lacking, and people unwilling to mourn and revisit the past. So I seek them out, people unafraid of their own grieving, and those weaving their memories into something worth keeping. Those who did not lose their loved ones but who had to, nonetheless, say goodbye and see them down. When I can’t write, or spend time in the company of these fully alive souls, I find that I must cry it out. It’s cathartic for me, and as honest as it gets when words are of no use.
This resonant piece – Death and families: when ‘normal’ grief can last a lifetime – by a bereaved sibling has some excellent observations on the passage of time and the pervasiveness of death phobia.
Dr. Joanne Cacciatore is the author of Bearing the Unbearable, and founder of the MISSFoundation. She lives in Sedona, AZ, a place of special significance for Kissie and me.
‘”What causes an echo?” she once quizzed me. The persistence of sound after the source has stopped. “When can you hear an echo?” When it’s quiet and other sounds are absorbed.’
– Mitch Albom, from For One More Day
These are my favorite lines from a short, sentimental novel the author calls a “family ghost story.” Not long after you died, I mentioned to a musician friend that it was so quiet. Your “sound” seemed to have left the world – the sound of your exuberance, your laughter, the literal vibration of your life. I could no longer identify it in my audible field. Without realizing it consciously, I started then to listen for an echo of sorts – the persistence of you. And I find I can somehow perceive the “persistence of you” most clearly when it’s quiet, or perhaps more aptly, when I’m quiet inside. But not always! Sometimes, in the noisiest of family gatherings, that echo punctuates the party. Just like you did.
Recently, an old friend of ours, cried with me about how terrible those last months were for you. It was such relief to know she grasped some of the enormity of what you endured, and to share the anguish of that knowledge together meant so much to me. Then, she apologized for bringing it up! I’m not sure she fully understood when I explained that I welcomed it, was grateful beyond words that she had spoken of those life-altering events. I think somehow we quiet the echoes of our deceased loved ones when we avoid painful memories – and even joyous ones – in well-meaning attempts to spare each other more sadness. We also stifle an opportunity for grief to be expressed in community, and the easing of sorrow, however temporary, that it brings.
This week I’ll be reunited with several of our long-time friends. With a few, it will be the first time since your memorial. Your name will be spoken freely, and your photo will be prominently displayed on the mantle. We’ll use some of your serving dishes on the table, and your favorite music will be played. Stories will be told. Echoes will be heard.
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”
These words were incredibly validating to me in the first weeks and months after my sister Christine died, when my daily crying was frequent and uncontrollable. Irving’s profound recognition of the value of this instinctual outpouring, and its testament to the reach of our love, continues to confirm my understanding of the importance of grieving deliberately. Tears authenticate our humanity.