21 June 2006

Moving, and moving on

Via Sigmund, Carl and Alfred I found this blog, written by Vicki. She writes movingly of her mother's death as well as so much about her daily life. While I read about her grieving, my heart ached for her.

My mother died fourteen years ago. It doesn't seem possible, in a way, that so much time has passed. And yet, by remembering it ... facing up to it ... I know that I can move on ... and have, in spite of myself.

As Vicki writes about her impending move, that, too, brings up things I'd rather not contemplate. I don't want to move, either, but I shall, one day. My dear one lives far away. In time, I will join him.

It's time for me to shed all possessions which are not mine: those I neither bought, nor chose to keep, nor love. A lot of those things belonged to my mother. My sister and I went through them once, together, all those years ago, and divided the ones we weren't ready to part with. Doing it again will be another kind of grieving, because I wanted to have the time to sit and enjoy those things... and haven't used my time for that, yet.

During the last three years I've had what I always (thought I) wanted: time alone to live as I please. To some degree, I've enjoyed that. But life has preoccupied me, and I didn't take the time I wanted to lounge in the garden, read, and go through my possessions. But, again: I was grieving changes in my personal life, proximate and long ago, choices I'd made which had torn my heart apart and slowly depressed my life to a sad fog.

Grieving is a part of life we don't talk much about and can't prepare for. If one isn't taught how to grieve, it may not take place. Yet the human person needs to grieve tragedies in life. If grief is suppressed or denied, it will work its way out in other, less healthy ways. It has to happen.

For me, one of the great gifts of Catholicism was its coaching in grieving. Catholics don't pretend away the sadness. Visiting a grave is considered one of the corporal works of mercy. It is OK to weep and to offer one's suffering as one would offer any other suffering, laying up "treasures in heaven." There are saints who also suffered terrible losses, and whose perseverance in spite of personal tragedy is inspiring, because they were no different from us, but they stayed in touch with God, even as they went through the valley of the shadow of death.

This day, this moment, I'm not conscious of grieving. I've been having more and more moments like that lately. Instead of feeling guilty about it as I did for so many years, I'm grateful. It's finally become clear to me that I'm allowed to have a few hours, even a whole day, of well-being and joy. That is the "reward" of grief well handled: one's life is open to the return of joy, in its season.

Even in my joy, however, I will never again be unaware of the landscape of grief. I remember stumbling through weeks in a haze, preoccupied with my mother's illness, then the arrangements after her death, and the long journey through her accumulation of possessions. When someone cuts me off in traffic, or speaks brusquely to me, I'm able to remember sometimes that they, too, might be grieving. You just never know. And, until you have walked that foggy, slippery path, you will not have sympathy, because you do not know what it does to you, and how it cannot be hurried.

Today, at this moment, I know joy. I feel well. The sun is shining. I have work to do, and the prospect of a delightful weekend ahead. If I refuse to enjoy what God is granting me in these moments, I do not alleviate the grief of someone else who just now is sobbing disconsolately over the loss of a loved one, an important relationship, or a hoped-for change in life. I can pray that they will be comforted and led in their feelings of desolation, even as I accept the refreshment of a break in my own journey.

It is summer in my soul today.

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