Sunday, March 30, 2014

On Grief - Notes to my Friend

I don't remember the writer's name**, but there is a line from a poem I have carried with me since I was a teenager.

Grief, I wade pools of it.

Today my friend's husband died.
Not just any friend.
My first friend.
My first Friend introduced me to many things from the time we were five until now.
My Friend introduced me to The Beatles.  Those of you who know me, need I say more.
My Friend was my first band mate and song writing partner.
My Friend introduced me to another friend and we became quite a threesome for quite some time.
My First Friend's husband died.  I never met him, but I know he was beautiful because she loved him.

Death is something very real to me.  My father died when I was a young teenager and I lost my daughter 7 years ago.   There are times when death seems close, and this is one of those times.  Though I have not seen My Friend in person for years, I am very sad for her.  I didn't know him. But I know she loved him.  I see the openness of her love for him in their photographs.  Her eyes remind me of the night I lay in my parents bed next to my grandmother and secretly witnessed my mother's last words to my dying father.  She was leaning over the rail of his hospital bed holding his hand.  My father had been on and out of coma for days and had not been responding to any of our whispers.  But my mother, she simply leaned over the raid and sweetly called, "Jack."  My father's eyes immediately fluttered open and he gazed directly into her eyes.  She held his hand as long as she held his hand, and he just looked up at her.  She patted his hand and moved from the bed. He closed his eyes.  I am not sure if her ever opened them again.  That is a detail I do not remember.

Recently I dreamed of my father.  I'll spare you the details but at the end of the dream, my father as a young man in a slim 50s style suit stood on a darkened train platform.  The platform was as "vintage" as these suit he wore.  I had been desperately looking for him and when I caught his gaze I could tell he recognized my anxiety and came towards me.  He picked me up and I cried, "Daddy, please don;t go.  Come back."   It cried it over and over again until I woke up startled and grief stricken.  My husband turned over and asked me what was going on.  I reported the dream to him and started to cry.  It was on elf those soul emptying cries.  I felt as though I was emptying myself of all the grief over his death that I thought I released. I cried heavily for a very, very long time.  I couldn't remember ever crying for him at that degree. In my dream I begged for him not to leave me.

This fall will mark 30 years since he died.

What I would tell My Friend is that there is no expiration date on grief.  I would tell her that people will want you to behave the way you did "before."  You may have to remind them that there is no before. There is only moving forward with your love and your memories.

I would tell her that the only responsibility that she has in grief is to remember that she is among the living even though she may not feel that truth for a long time.  but it will come back to you.
I would tell her that she will want to laugh at weird things.  Do it.
I would tell her the hardest time may be when you look for him and he not there.  It's breaking the habits that are the hardest.
I would tell her that there is no use in pretending you are strong when you are not, or pretending you are weaker than you are.

I would tell My Friend that, as she knows, Love is stronger than death.  When the dust clears, and it may take several years, you will feel the love more than the death.  It will still make you sad, but it will be the sweet sadness that comes with beautiful memories.

**The poet, Emily Dickinson I believe.

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