There was something else on my mind until I learned about the Oklahoma tornado and the lives lost to it.
The point here is that there’s no hurrying this experience of grief — and there’s no point in just sweeping these feelings away for another day. Yes, it’s better (I think) if we can experience a kind of communal sorrow, and funerals are good for that, but the real impact of the passing of a loved one — for whatever reason — goes on for much longer. Even grieving fully doesn’t remove the melancholy of memories shared with the one who’s gone. There’s a kind of slow transformation from the piercing sharpness of loss to an emptiness that lives within us. My emptiness sometimes reminds me of happy moments with Mom, and sometimes trying ones, but it is never full the way it was while Mom was alive. It is the same with my friend: the way his son looks sometimes, or when I speak to his parents about him and their grand kids.
The beauty of such pain is that we are not alone. In my grief, I have a sense of belonging somehow to a tribe of strangers who also knew Mom, loved her, and miss her. Closer in, my Dad and I experience Mom’s passing in ways we can share, memories we can relive. My kids and I sometimes remember “GM” together in beautiful ways that keep her alive: my singer/songwriter daughter wrote and performed a song for Mom, shared with the family on YouTube. My son the lawyer keeps Mom’s memory alive in the way he chooses to show his compassion for animals, or when his eyes soften as he speaks of her. These little things are tributes to Mom. I share such things with my friend’s parents, too.
So as I think of Oklahoma, my own midwestern roots kick in and remind me that the ones who love each of the ones lost will mind their passing with shared grief, yes, but also with resilience — with the fortitude that keeps us strong, with the stiff upper lip I’ve come to know and accept about myself — with strength to rebuild and quiet honor to persevere in memory of those who died. May a beautiful song find each of us in our mourning to ease us gently through our loss, and may we share that music together as together we share our grief.