I was only half-listening to a song on the radio, yet a wave of sadness overcame me for the loss of my father. The song had nothing to do with my dad nor did my mood, as I was content and even joyful before the song played. Grief is like this. I am at the market, picking grapes to place into my cart and immediately I am taken back to my childhood, shopping with Dad. He is not only selecting the grapes, but he is eating them. “You can’t do that, Daddy. That’s stealing.” Today, I smile with a bittersweet memory, enveloped with loss and longing, wishing he could eat the grapes again regardless of the theft.
I am shopping, the activity that my mother and I shared so peacefully. So many times I want to say, “Mom, I bought a great pair of shoes” or “You have to hear about the deal I got on this jacket.” Of course, I can think that she knows, being somewhere way above me, but the loss and the longing exist within me and suddenly I am taken on a journey through time right back to my mother’s bed, where she spent so much time, whether healthy or ill. A comforting block of sheets, spongy mattress, and bags of chips and candy, entwined with newspapers and a bookmarked good read. How could I be at a department store and suddenly end up in my mother’s bedroom? How can this happen after 2 1/2 years without her? This is my version of grief and loss. Again, I am at peace, sipping a cup of coffee as I walk through a store and suddenly I am brought back to sharing space with my mother. “I’ll buy you the coffee. Here’s the money. I’ll go sit down and wait for you.” Except, I am alone and no one is waiting for me.
When I enter Starbucks, it’s not really the coffee I desire, but the recreated memories I had with my dear, dear friend Marion, who died so young and left so many. We would meet at our nearby Starbucks, calling it our ‘office.’ Sometimes it was for 30 minutes, but it was enough time to establish “our table” and within the space, we were taken into the conversational world of adult girlfriends: husbands, motherhood, finding a balance, freedom. Grief overtakes me as I wait to pay, remembering how one of us would save the table and the other would wait in line. I search the tables, looking for her, even after eight years, ridiculous, but longing places tricks on me; I slowly walk out with the mediocre brew , trying to capture the loving connection of the living we once had, knowing it is forever lost with my Marion.
How is is possible that the loss I feel for my grandmother, my Nana Bea, who helped raise me and died 27 years ago, can be as fresh as a recent loss? I hear her voice within me, reminding me to get back on course when I have slipped. We shared our hearts and our similarities in personality, as I often felt closer to her than to my mother. Nana understood me, even during my teenage years, so when I feel misunderstood today, my thoughts and my heart return to the safety of my grandmother who needed none of my words to know how I felt. She never told me she understood, but I knew she did.
I don’t have the same feelings of loss and longing for my own years that have passed with such speed. I have spent them well and exhausted both my time and myself. I am thankful for them and don’t wish them back. I don’t want to be 20, 30, 45, or even 50 again. I did them and did them well, or at least the best I could. I am at the age when some people die of natural causes, whatever that means. I am okay with this and don’t wallow in regrets or missed opportunities. No loss here. The grief catches, though, not in my own longing for these years, but for those who traveled with me, for my dearest first canine Teddy, who helped me from young motherhood to a seasoned blend of experience and knowing. The animals and people I will never have with me, yet who are always within. Perhaps, then, the function of my loss is a rekindling of all that I hold dear, a reminder that I still need all of the people and the experiences within me on my journey ahead. They are a song away; a grape away; a cup of coffee away; a good bargain away, as is my loss and longing for them all.
My loss is on a continuum, where at times it is deep within and protected, barely felt, yet a falling leaf, a stop sign, my book, a glass of water, can catch the latch of my grief, opening its door. At these moments, I feel so real, so complete, and while devastated, I know I have had a depth of quality having shared my years with those to whom I say goodbye again and again. This is my loss and longing and my love.