My grief lies all within,
And these external manners of laments
Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
That swells with silence in the tortured soul.
There lies the substance.
King Richard, in Richard II, act 4, sc. 1, l. 295-9.
Grief is formless, ever-changing, and ephemeral, like the wind. But it is also solid, like the wind. And just as a steady wind can wear a hole in the ground, so can grief wear away at a person’s flesh until there’s nothing left but a heart rattling around in a cage of bones, bumping out its rhythm, inaudible under the whistling of the wind. It appears nowhere in my life, but it presses against me at every turn, fatiguing me in every motion, making me labor to complete the simplest of tasks.
I haven’t really wanted to write much about it here, and I still don’t. I don’t want to get bogged down in it. I want to–need to–get on with my life. If I can keep moving, I know that eventually grief will tire of the chase, although the escape will exhaust me until then. And this time I’m not scared to lose the grief; I’m not scared that if I’m no longer sad, I’ll no longer remember Mom; I know that as soon as I lose the grief, I’ll be free to see her as I did when she was alive, unencumbered by melancholy.
To avoid the quicksand of melancholy, I remind myself of all the small favors for which I have to be thankful–that she lived so long, so full, so happy a life; that I got to share with her my greatest joys and know her comfort in my deepest sorrows; and that she is so deeply rooted in me that she will never leave me, wherever I may roam. I also have 3B to pull me back from the gaping maw of bleak, self-pitying contemplation–he needs me here to hold him, talk to him, and sway him to sleep. He needs me here so that he can, as Mom would say, “get on with his life,” which reminds me to get on with my life–to not let the shrieking winds of grief push me, running, before them, but to turn my tiller and tack against them, beating into the formless currents that whistle around me and slice across my skin.
And so, as he creates his own life with each soft, shallow breath, 3B also breathes life into me, giving me strength and direction–and that’s no small favor.
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