The last year we lived in Missouri, I was a fourth grader, and my father had taken over the division chapel where the basic trainees came every Sunday by the hundreds (if they went to a church service, they didn’t have to participate in drills). What I remember most from that year, was a family that moved in down the street from us, and discovered, in a heavy trunk in their garage, the body of their four-year-old son, who had climbed into the trunk with three newborn kittens and suffocated. My father performed the funeral. He cried when he told us.
It was called a family tragedy, as though it could be contained by that single group of people.
In January of the following year, the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Someone came to the door of our classroom, and Ms. Moos, our teacher, announced the news in a trembling voice. We watched the shuttle explode again and again that afternoon. The teachers consoling one another, while we sat at our desks, awestruck. Alive and then not. Momentum and then pieces. I had just turned eleven and was startled to discover that it could all be over so quickly. Blinked out. That’s what could happen.
It was connected, the boy in the trunk and the astronauts in the shuttle. The horror of it. The senselessness. And I was too young to know there is never sense in it. Never reason, though later someone might offer explanations. That is how tragedy binds us, how we are drawn together by the weight of what we cannot set down.
5 thoughts on “Grief”
You could have given a hundred other titles to this post, but that’s the one you chose. Not Tragedy. Not Helplessness. But Grief.
Perhaps because grief is not subjective? There are degrees; there different manifestations. But the emotion that meets loss is always grief. And I find it, sometimes, to be a selfish response. A need for perfection.
Is grief the weight we cannot set down?
My mother died January 22nd, fourteen years ago. I haven’t thought about it much today. It’s just a day, anymore. And yet, grief is the way that I still say “I love you.” Grief the road to not forgetting. It’s is a lonely way to love.
Wow. You’ve said that beautifully. I think grief is the weight we can’t set down, the crushing thing that we must go on bearing. I’d never articulated to myself that it might be a need for perfection, but that’s an aspect too, isn’t it? An ache for what wasn’t.
I am so moved to come across these posts. Grief is the form my relationship with my mother takes now that she has, like yours, Shelly, been dead for years. Strangely and synchronistically, tomorrow is the seventh anniversary of her death.
We do grieve for both what was and what we wished for but never came to be. I grieve for the mother I won’t grow old beside.
All good things to you both.
Thank you for sharing that. Grief has a future tense as well as a past and present tense. I think that has a part in why we continue to shoulder it.
By the time my mother died, her shoulders were skin and bone. Now I know it was not just from arthritis and old age.