“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality.” -Florida Scott Maxwell
I spent the afternoon visiting with my brother and sister-in-law. They live about an hour away from us, but because our mother lives in the opposite direction, I’ve never been to their house before. We reminisced about my niece, about how much she loved working as a CNA. She especially loved the old people and the stories they told her. I learned that on her breaks and lunch hours she would drop by to visit patients. She was also running up quite a food service bill, and had taken to climbing the hospital stairs instead of riding the elevator. None of this surprised me–she was the kind of kid who defines the word “gusto.”
I remember a few years back when, a year after a friend died, his wife said, “He is always with me. And I miss him so much.” I wish there were some magic cure–particularly for my sister-in-law. But would we want to mourn any less? There’s no getting around it. Here’s a poem from Emily Dickinson that says there’s also no getting through grief, only accepting that we’re inside it. And maybe we’re not alone.
I wonder if it weighs like Mine–
Or has an Easier size.
I wonder if They bore it long–
Or did it just begin–
I could not tell the Date of Mine–
It feels so old a pain–
I wonder if it hurts to live–
And if They have to try–
And whether–could They choose between–
It would not be–to die.
In choosing to live, however, we also choose to remember. (We choose to tell our stories, as Shelby knew.) I don’t pretend that my grief over my niece is insurmountable, but when I look into her mom’s eyes…well, it’s fierce. I wish I could help.