“Now would be a good time to have end-of-life discussions with Donna,” the Hospice Rabbi said. “What does she want for her funeral? What are her regrets? Did she find joy in her life?”
Joy? I failed her. All I could do was think of that.
I hesitated for a day. Then next afternoon, alone in the room with Donna, I looked at her in the bed and said, “Donna, perhaps you want to talk about your funeral.”
She looked over at me and said, “Don’t be a maudlin pussy.” Then she rolled onto her side and fell asleep.
I smiled. That was the woman I married 28 years ago, life and death on her terms, her way, take no prisoners, with no doubt about what was needed. She was not dead yet.
This occurred about a week to ten days prior to Donna’s death. Yet my grief was an orchard in full bloom and thriving finding nourishment from the memories of our life together. It took seed when she was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer two plus years earlier. After she died it sunk it roots deep and remains part of me. Many may see my grief as a failure to launch away from the pain. You know that entire finding closure meme which is denial said pretty. I will not deny my grief nor Donna.
There is more to grief. Let me defend grief, specifically defend my grief and hopefully your grief. Grief is life’s artesian aquifer. It flows from within, bored out of the loss of a loved one.It is part love and light. It holds promise to satisfyingly quench our loss. To sustain us.
Grief should not be seen as a proper place or an improper place. It is the space between memories of the past and hope for the future. Those are distant points on a compass that intersects within us. At times where it overlaps may be a soft and subtle or hard and painful. No matter it creates a newness within us offering a fresh look that what was, what is, and what may be. If choose not shy from it or ignore it can open up new memories and new understanding.
I have written about grief and will continue to. Grief has its own narrative arc and begins as thumping numbing recognizing that what once is is now was. It moves with us and becomes dullness. We need to take grief and partner with it, in a sense embrace its strength and aching to create new.
Maine Public has a piece by Patty Wight. ‘If It’s All About You, There’s No Reward:’ Coping with Grief by Helping Others
She relates the story of Floyd Hastings and the death of his wife. How Hastings like many of us who face the loss of a loved one sought to give back to those who helped us care for our loved one. I remembered the chemo lab nurses and hospice staff for years following Donna’s death. I have posted about Donna and podcast on grief and how I’ve managed it well and not so well. I am volunteering. All of this as a way to pay forward what I’ve learned.
That is what we do but more to my premiss, our grief is a light within us to guide us to a better understanding of what was, is, and will be. Below are some links to my podcasts on the topic and posts. But stay tuned more to come.
Podcast 39: The Organic Nature of Grief. An Observer Effect
Podcast 37: The Insipid Nature of Grief, The Horse Latitudes