03 September 2013


I find myself staring toward the window to see if she might peer out

My 12-year-old daughter has a t-shirt that says POW! You know the kind...the cartoon POW inside some version of a star that they use in comic strips or in movies. She loves Spiderman right now and all things that reflect some sort of cartoon version of it so she likes to wear the shirt, a lot.

Today was the first day of school, and just like that, in the midst of the excitement, the taking pictures, the nervousness of starting middle school/seventh grade (the 12-year-old), the ambivalence of going back to high school for the sophomore year (the 16-year-old), and the sheer joy of the new elementary school and the beauty of the new building (the 7-year-old), it hit me:


Grace is still missing. Grace is still gone. Grace will not be entering fifth grade this year.


And just like that, my eyes start to water and my mind starts racing and I'm standing in the hallway talking to other moms with the seven-year-old nearby, and inside my head I'm screaming, no no no no no no no. Don't you DARE start falling now tears. Don't you DARE take this moment of joy, of elation for my children starting school! DON'T. YOU. DARE!!!!


And I do my best all day to hold back the tears because you know, well, you understand, no one wants to really see this grief in the midst of all this excitement. No one wants to see the anguish on a mother's face on the first day of school. Who knows? Maybe my tears will just make someone else start crying and who wants to be responsible for that?


I read a quote today that a friend posted on her Facebook page, and it was one of those quotes that made a KA-POW sound inside my body when I read it:

"Grief is subversive, undermining the quiet agreement to behave and be in control of our emotions. It is an act of protest that declares our refusal to live numb and small. There is something feral about grief, something essentially outside the ordained and sanctioned behaviors of our culture. Because of that, grief is necessary to the vitality of the soul. Contrary to our fears, grief is suffused with life force."           --Francis Weller, Entering the Healing Ground

Yes, yes I shout to myself as I read it. That's it. It is both feral and vital to the soul.

Here's the thing: My children are growing. They are lovely human beings falling into themselves as they have fallen slowly (though it seems ever so quickly) out of my arms. And the more they grow, the more I fall deeply in love with them. And this, THIS is why today hurt so much: because the more I get to know and love my living children, the farther away from Grace I fall, the greater the distance between her death and all these other children growing up becomes. And the greater that distance, the deeper the chasm.

This is why grief doesn't end. This is why grief after all these years can arrive so intensely, so powerfully, so present on an ordinary day when I just wasn't expecting it, wasn't planning for it, didn't store up enough time in my day to have it side swipe me like that. 


And here's the convoluted juxtaposition of all of this: This feeling, this grief does not take away the moments I share with my living children. The more this grief hurts, the more I fall deeply in love with my other three walking hearts. And the more I fall in love with them, the more this grief hurts. And herein lies the madness of it all--for it is a kind of madness. My grief and my love are so inextricably linked that sometimes it still, after all these years, makes it hard to breath.

I am in awe of the power of grief.
I am in awe of the power of love.