Grief is a funny thing. Not funny-ha-ha, but funny-peculiar. One can think one’s self well acquainted with it, only to be introduced to another angle of it. I have found myself continuously turning corners in this path of grief I tread, and finding completely unexpected landscapes spread out before me. A few months ago, my memories of Ford’s life and death had become hazy, at best. While I missed him painfully, I was used to his being gone, as used as one can be. But over the past couple of months, I’ve been learning to grieve in a new context, and subconsciously, all my memories and natural patterns of thought have adjusted again. I’ve had sudden vivid memories of the accident and our early days of grief. I’ve had recurring nightmares featuring Ford in rôles he hasn’t played in them since his death. [And lest you think me strange for mentioning my dreams, I have several vivid dreams every night that I usually remember in detail in the morning, so they do make a difference on my morning mood, sometimes even all day]. I’ve come across things that my family, friends, or I wrote those first few months and been moved to weeping by them. And, once again, I’ve had the urge to tell him something important, or maybe just something he’d get a kick out of, and then remember I can’t make him chuckle or be surprised or pleased or anything anymore.
It’s a little odd, I’d not been to a funeral since Ford’s, 543 days ago, yet this week I’m attending two requiem masses. On a week that I have been constantly pushing aside the memories and the reminders of what happened, trying to escape the reality of death, perhaps to be faced with death like this is just what I need. Grief is an inconvenient thing. It’s far easier to turn off the music that brings a lump to the throat, to try to push back the memories that pop up, and keep on working, than to take time to grieve. Our culture does not take time for grief. We avoid even the appearance of grief. (What better example for this than the way funeral homes are made to look? Fresh, bright green lawns, respectable buildings…just another office or home). We’ve commandeered the colours of mourning for everyday so that it won’t make anybody sad to see someone dressed in sombre raiment. We might grieve a bit with the family and friends of the departed, or send them flowers or a card, but then we expect them to get over it. How can we treat death as something to be “gotten over”? Death is a part of our everyday lives, whether or not someone close to us has died. Not just as the final last breath kind of death, but in a million small ways. To try to ignore these is purely foolishness. It’s like trying to ignore one’s height, or the colour of one’s skin, or one’s accent. Death is a part of us, and therefore grief is a part of us. This is not a shameful thing. Those obnoxious tears that come flowing when you’re in the middle of washing dishes? Let them flow. If somebody else sees them, good. If Christ was not ashamed of showing his grief, why should we be?
WordPress tells me I wrote those first few paragraphs 542 days (18 months) ago, as I rode the roller coaster of 5-weeks-pregnant-and-not-sure-if-this-baby-will-stay-with-us-or-not. As much time again has elapsed since Ford’s death. Once again, I’m becoming accustomed to grieving in a new context. Once again, I’m trying to put death into a box. Once again, it is being forced before my face as my husband and I talk through the purpose of life insurance and discuss how our family would continue on if one of us died, and with gut-wrenching flashbacks to the moments and days and weeks surrounding Ford’s death, as well as heartbreaking news of baby after sweet baby departing this life. And I tremble and weep and hold my family close and then wipe away the tears and try to pretend I’m a normal person.
The problem with putting death into a box, with tucking away our grief so that we will feel numb, which we persuade ourselves is better than the raw pain of endless brokenheartedness, is that if we deny death, we also deny death’s Conqueror. When we refuse to suffer, we spit in the face of the Sufferer. When we say we don’t want to waste our time grieving, we turn up our noses at the Man of Sorrows. Without the dark bitterness of Holy Week, Easter is nothing but another day. But thanks be to God, we are called to grieve in hope. May our hearts turn to the Light, and the lengthening shadows of evening be seen for what they are.