My father’s garage was a special garage because he parked his French Fry truck in it. When I think of myself standing as a child of three or four next to his truck I am filled with the sentiments of awe and wonder which is pretty much, except for certain exceptions, as how I saw my father throughout his life. Now that he has been dead for over six years this wonderment and pride seems to increase with time although I do not quite know how to explain it for the simple reason that I don’t understand how this happens or why or what to make of it all. It seems such a private thing, in one way. And in another way so universal.
I guess this is what grief is about. The ups and downs. The anger. The sorrow. The bringing up of old wounds and the creation of new ones. Grief is about honour: Of the dead. The living. And oneself. And grief, I have learnt can turn into wonderment. My father is now stronger than ever alive in my heart.
Of course, the past is unattainable but if we’re lucky we can use the past as our guides as Gail Caldwell in her Pulitzer Prize Winning memoir A Strong West Wind proposes. “You can’t go back: to unboarded trains, to pristine battlefields before the dawn, to love that ended yesterday in Texas. Instead we have this stupid, lovely chaos, this burden and blessing called experience, the high beam of the past that is supposed to throw light on the future.” (p.216).
It has been a year now since Diana died. Tomorrow I will be having my family over for a commemorative lunch. I look forward to this, in some ways like I might look forward to a party that I am hosting and I must remind myself that this is not a party. Or is it? I think of the stages of grief and how the last stage is to celebrate what having the person in your life has given you.
I think about what Gail Caldwell wrote after she delivered a poem at her friend,
Caroline’s funeral: “For two days after the service, I carried the meter of the poem in my head, a sweet interior background to the walks I took, the laps I swam, the last thoughts before sleep. It was as though some ancient choir had taken up residence inside me, giving me this exquisite chant, a measure of my own movement and accompaniment to an otherwise unspeakable sorrow”.
As I write this I play Cat Steven’s Morning Has Broken on YouTube. Tears flow and I am not certain what exactly it is that I am crying about. The tears are a cocktail of hope mixed with sorrow; the light of beginnings with the darkness of endings; words that went unspoken with feelings that reach beyond and make me believe that we can still communicate. With more power than we ever did.
I play practically every video on YouTube with this song and read some of the comments people have written. One in particular strikes me: brought me back to why we worship God.
My mind connects to another song. This one by Alanis Morissette’s Thank U. Thank you frailty, thank you consequence, thank you disillusionment…How about not equating death with stopping.
Again Caldwell. “…What if death…weren’t a bad thing?”
This week I have felt my sister’s presence in my home. Some of her little grandchildren will come over tomorrow. I talk to Diana out loud. You can use my body as a vessel tomorrow to communicate with them, I tell her. Use my body to communicate with whomever you want to. At yoga practice the teacher always begins by asking us to have an intention. Yesterday, my intention was to be filled with Diana’s qualities of kindness and generosity and gentleness and my own of joy and calmness. This is how I want to be.
What if death weren’t so bad? How do we know? How does anybody know? We can only hope and in itself is enough to carry us through the sorrow of grief.