In the morning there is light. At night, there is dark. A natural process and, obvious to us all. No surprises there. As the world turns we lose and then we gain the burning light from our sun. The tides ebb and flow on a regular basis, pulled by the moon; we have breakfast on waking and supper before sleep. Beyond the odd deviation, such as a son-in-law who can eat reheated lasagne instead of cornflakes of a morning, we tend to stick to patterns long written down with a deferential nod to the historical family ‘bible’. Some of us break out, deciding not to continue such a dull and predictable daily plan, but, over time, many of us revert to type. We continue doing what we always did, what our parents did, seeing through a learned perspective a world we can understand and accept. Others may do it another way, but that is not for us. Let them eat cake, if cake is what they know and understand. Me? I prefer lasagne, and what they do is fine, as long as they do it over there on the other side of my garden gate.
Then something huge happens. It comes from nowhere. I never saw it coming at all. Suddenly, my landscape is a barren grey field of burning broken-ness. Suddenly, and it is always thus, I am stopped dead in my tracks. I have no idea what to do with this, nor myself. I am completely banjaxed. Such is a life when death comes like a thief. Not, this time, in my own life, but in that of a dear friend. One moment she is waving him goodbye-see-you-later-I’ll-cook-tonight, and the next she is opening the door to the bringer of the worst news ever. How can this be?
Her landscape, now, this light bright morning, is anything but light and bright. For her, this is darkness in the daytime. For her, there is no way forward, no view she has ever seen before, nor one she can understand at all. From the trench in which she now stands, knee deep in freezing water and scurrying with rats, she sees a war zone. Hopelessness. Burning. Cries of pain. I cannot imagine it. No shoes are right for this, no clothing warm enough, no words of consolation enough to separate her from the sure knowledge that she will never have to cook for him again.
I just listened to a Ted Talk (recommend them highly) on Grief. The speaker lost a baby, her father and her husband in the same year and she has made it her life’s work to study and then to teach about grief. Not moving on from it, but moving on with it. We say, at terrible times in another’s life that our own sadness palls into insignificance beside the terrible time, and, it does, but it doesn’t mean we should move on either. Whatever is a fallen field in our own lives, matters. Turning from the sadness doesn’t, unfortunately, make it go away. It simply buries it in the ashes of what once was vibrant with flowers. But, as we know, the earth moves and as she does, she thrusts up the long-buried bones of that sadness, that loss, that guilt, that shame, so that we are forced to face it all over again, and just when we thought we ran clear.
We can encompass so much if we look at life, our own life, other’s lives, the state of the world, all of it, as strands of the same thread, not opposing forces. Extreme grief can be felt for something in one life, that is like mist in the hurricane of another’s, and, yet, both matter. Grief over rejection, bullying, homophobic judgment, lack of success in business, a broken relationship, and so much more, can feel like the end of the world to the fly in the metaphorical web. It can dominate every single second of thought, change behaviour, choices, direction. It can kill.
I have not faced the ultimate grief, the sudden death of a beloved one, the shock of it. I can say nothing on the matter. My words would be as sickening platitudes were I to speak at all. So I won’t. But, I will say that in this world there are millions of grievers and every single grief matters. Moving on with that grief changes landscapes, breaks historical patterns and there is nothing wrong with that. Moving on, with the joy and with the grief that comes to every life, brings out a creativity in all of us, one that would never be tapped, nor developed had we never stood before the fallen field; had we never felt so very lost, so unequipped, so cold and weary and so broken.
The thread is one thread. Many strands, but one thread. Multicoloured, but one thread, and this one thread, this one chance of life, links us all together.