I think I should say up front that I am not an expert on grieving. This is a fictional story, but in my heart it was a reminder that we are all interconnected. We each have a part to play in the lives of each other. We carry burdens, love, laugh and cry in seasons. We share, in joy and in pain. Today may be your turn, tomorrow mine…
It felt odd that a bundle so light and fresh could be such weight upon my shoulders. Just a little bouquet of flowers was all I held as I made my way down the path to the river. The night was calm. The iridescent moon was just making its entrance. I noticed the beauty and it felt odd. “Feeling numb and noticing beauty shouldn’t go together“, I thought. Just a slight crisp breeze blowing ever so softly reminded me that fall was in the air. That seemed fitting…that the leaves would still be green and desperately hanging like beggars. They mirrored my feelings. I’ve tried to hang on as long as possible; willing life to stay the same. But it was not to be. Change was in the air.
I caught sight of the river and quickened my pace. “Almost there“, I thought. I immediately put “almost” on the list of words I despise. My list was growing. I came to the water’s edge and stopped. It’s music today was more lullaby than orchestral. Crazy how the river music changed by the hour. The bouquet of flowers was still in my hand, but it felt heavy like a weighted gun, war raging in my soul. This place. This sacred place was where it all began, and now, where it needs to begin its end. Why does letting go hurt so badly? Why does loneliness feel stronger than life itself? I held the flowers over the rushing sound and tightened my grip. I just wasn’t quite ready. I thought about taking them back home, but I knew his voice would haunt me. “I want you to do this” I heard him say. War is so hard on the body, but surrender seems so final. I thought ‘something’ would be better then ‘nothing’. Wouldn’t even pain be better than emptiness? The war raged for some time. My mouth, once stoic, trembled as tears hit the petals before they fell in with the river, floating away forever. I wish my tears were the pain, leaving forever…But is letting go forgetting? And then at once, without thinking more, I opened my hand. It felt like it was happening to me, instead of through me. The flowers fell; moving, leaving me, just as I knew they should. Is that why he asked me to do this? Was this the point? With aching heart and hopeless steps, I walked back to life without him. And the next evening I made the same trip, just as he asked, and held more flowers and cried again before letting go.
Two weeks of “letting the flowers go” brought a new routine. I can’t say I looked forward to it, but my walk among the beauty at night brought a deep richness. My river walks divinely placed me each and every night, at a point of decision. Surrender began feeling more like peace instead of war. I marveled at this recognition and cried even more. Tears watered the roots and became a catalyst for growth and somewhere deep inside, I knew there was a bigger plan. I kept going. I couldn’t let him down. It was the first night of the third week that I decided to walk further down the river after the flowers fell. I was still crying most nights, but somehow the tears brought with it a cleansing to this wound. I had only walked a little ways before hearing children on the other side of the river. Laughing? Squealing? Or was that crying? I tried not to make a scene but followed closer to the voices, listening.
“Layla, Layla! Momma sent us flowers again. She sent them!” Two little sisters were bent over the river’s edge, reaching for the bouquet. My bouquet. His bouquet. The older sister grabbed them fast and handed them to the younger. “I told you! I asked God to give us a sign and let Momma talk to us. See!” She held up the flowers of proof. He did! These are from her. Every night for two weeks!” The little girl started laughing, while the older brushed away tears.
It was in that moment that my grief was overtaken by something bigger; a joy, I guess. It made me stop and wonder. How can my pain help someone else? The same flowers representing my greatest loss are life-giving to these girls! I imagined the girl’s mother smiling at me, hugging me and thanking me. I couldn’t even choke out a word. I just nodded toward her. How many people, if they knew there was a trade-off for the pain they carried, would take it so someone else could experience joy? Maybe my end is someone else’s beginning? I decided that this is the way I would view my grief and loss from now on; a decision to love others; to take and shoulder pain so someone else could experience some joy. Maybe even for little girls who needed love from their mother.
And so my nightly ritual continues. Not for him, or for me, but for them.