Posted on

The Season of Quiet Mourners

swing sadness

Dec 1st has come and gone, meaning the “Christmas season’ is in full swing. For many, this is all joyous. But for so many, it means a quiet reconciling of loss. Seasons of parties and pictures, family and gatherings, punctuate loss.

I have friends who have recently (or not so recently) said “goodbye” to someone, or some-thing. It seems odd that joyous occasions punctuate loss, but it does. Do you feel it too? Sure, I know there is a season for everything. There is. But there are seasons more difficult than others, Joyous seasons are difficult to sojourn in mourning. No one wants to be a “downer” in the midst of a party season. Smiles are draped like luxurious clothing. I think we must take time to see beyond the “clothes.” We must look past the lights and music. We must look into honest eyes and share in kind with honestly; with genuine care. We must see, really see. It might be as simple as a word of acknowledgement, or a release for tears among smiles; a touch on the shoulder. There is beauty in acknowledgement. Sometimes it is enough to admit we don’t know what’s needed. That’s a start.

Almost EVERYONE I know intimately deals with mourning silently. It is human. Beautifully human. The band of “Quiet Mourners” is real …and thoughtful, honoring and noble in a world full of tell-all, “exploitation at the cost of everyone” photos. Things happen that sometimes can’t be talked about or shared. It’s ok, It doesn’t mean you’re not vulnerable or authentic. It may mean you are respectful of someone else, There is no shame in quiet mourning. It’s a reality. In some ways, it gives a beautiful dignity and poignancy to something real.

I would like to take a moment to honor all of the quiet mourners.

Your dreams have gasped their last breath without celebration or fanfare. Your heart may have broken silently with the loss, at times being so interwoven with someone else’s, that there was no liberty to share the pain. That doesn’t mean it’s less important. That kind of mourning still matters because… you still matter.

You. Matter.

 

 

Posted on

The Missing Scientist

Jim_Gray_on_Tenacious_2006

 

“What we do not know about a missing loved one,” the poet T.S. Eliot said, “becomes all that we know.”

On Sunday, January 28, 2007, during a short solo sailing trip to the Farallon Islands near San Francisco to scatter his mother’s ashes, Jim Gray (a prominent computer scientist) and his 40-foot yacht, Tenacious, were reported missing by his wife, Donna Carnes. He never returned. His wife had to deal with questions upon questions, his boat and body never found.

After listening to The Myth of Closure podcast (On Being, interview with Pauline Boss), we realize these kinds of stories make us reconsider closure. It makes us reconsider that maybe this goal is not one to pursue. We erroneously think that with the right amount of facts, we may close a door; that maybe we can resume into normalcy just as before. But after listening to this podcast, I am reconsidering this assumption.

Here are my takeaways from Pauline-She writes/speaks about ambiguous loss–when you’ve lost the person, but they’re still there (like with divorce, immigration, a missing child, or Alzheimer’s disease). Or any loss with many questions.

While “closure” is a nice word in business deals and transactions, it is not very relevant in relationships. It is not relevant in grief. Pauline Boss encourages that we must let go of “fixing” and search for the re-calibration that helps us learn to hold loss in our midst. There is no denying loss; no way to mandate or customize the hurt.

We must not accept that even without closure, we can attach meaning. It is attaching meaning (even if the circumstances seem meaningless) that brings hope. We must let go of perfect answers.

We can pursue meaningful perceptions because they are real in their consequences.

Relationships in life are not mere doors to be closed. People are more than that- absence, intended or unintended, stays with us; within us.Grief is part of life that lingers. It is in the background. It never dissolves completely. It is the testament to what is meaningful.

Jim’s wife wrote years after his disappearance on the water,  “Walk On.”

“You walk on still beside me, eyes shadowed in dusk. You’re the lingering question at each day’s end. I have to laugh at how open-ended you remain, still with me after all these years of being lost. I carry you like my own personal time machine, as I put on my lipstick, smile, and head out to the party.”

Posted on

mud, snow and hope

snow mud hopeI roam the paths in each season and look for hope. It’s what I do-look for hope in change. Some days/seasons are easier than others. Remember when the tree was so vibrant and then the leaves began unattaching, falling and changing resting spots as the wind blew?. And I admit I was tempted like all the rest to see this as a loss. But when the leaf was almost dust, a lacy intricate shell, I found this change almost magical. I could see the hope in change.

And I do believe that Hope is worthy.

But today the path is only muddy, a mixture of snowmelt and dirt. The leaves that turned from vibrant color to the browny dust, is now diluted, being taken somewhere else, far from me it seems. Maybe it fills a little crevice in the rock? Maybe it finds the perfect resting spot? For all these reasons, I try to imagine.

I imagine because Hope is worthy.

I know in time I will see new growth appear when I gaze up to the sky. I will see green and not gray… but is it ok to feel the sadness of longing? Maybe feeling something gives this change the dignity it deserves?

I hope so. Hope is worthy.

My autumn hikes changed me. And frankly, I feel almost ruined by it now.  Oh, I know the winter stillness has it’s own lessons to teach, and I will eventually get into my seat and listen to the instructions, but I’m rebelling today, just standing in the back of the classroom with my arms crossed, daring the teacher to try. I miss my former teacher.

But deep down I know that Hope is worthy.

Maybe change holds up a mirror and shows us what love does to a soul? One taste and we are forever seeking just one more moment of cherishing and being cherished; one more moment where nothing else matters; one more collision of peace and ecstasy. And even though remembering stings and reminds me of something past, I choose to remember. I think to myself “to fight is to hope”. And…

Hope is worthy.