Sometimes everything just goes along as it does. Seasons change, harvests get harvested, days pass in rapid succession in our full life. And then, every now and again, the world spins off its axis.
Which is what happened on the night of October 20th. The phone rang at 10:24 pm, long after sleep has usually come for me.
The phone never rings that late.
Grief, to me, is like the ocean. Vast, inexorable, with waves that can pull you off of your feet and riptides that can pull you under as you try to hold yourself upright carrying heavy loads in each arm that you cannot put down no matter how badly you want to. Rapid fire, one after another the waves take you down until you are too exhausted keep standing, but stand you must.
Eventually it is more like a gentle tide on the beach. There, but peaceful most of the time, except when the occasional giant wave soaks you and takes you off your footing. They become less and less, but the surprise waves still arrive unbidden, at a smell, a memory, a moment. The heavy loads are lighter, smaller, then eventually they have begun to wash away.
That second part takes a long time. For some it never comes. And for us now, the grief is too fresh. My beloved brother in law, gone too fast and too soon, leaving my sister and her daughters alone against the buffeting water and falling horizon, too young to be a widow, too young to be fatherless. My sister was fortunate to have found a real love story in her other half, and that story should not have ended the way it did.
Too soon, brother mine. Too soon.
So we grieve. People send food, far too much food. More food than anyone could possibly eat in 2 lifetimes, food that tells us they care even if we have no appetite whatsoever.
There are calls and texts and questions “How are you?”. The real answer is “Terrible” and that’s just my grief. How do you watch your sister realize, over and over that their person is gone and never coming back? The realities are agonizing, too much to bear. The rest of your life is too long to love someone and lose them and face it alone.
All the things that are left, no longer needed where he is. Phone, car keys, shoes. Reminders of what he left behind. A world of 5 is now 4, wondering how they will ever do without him, looking at the the things that are left and wishing for just one more moment of their use.
So we do what we can. We thank the folks who brought food, we tidy up, we offer support, we field the calls. The world has wrapped us all up in a loving embrace to grieve with us. We hug, and we cry, and for the moment decide that worrying about Covid-19 has to move to the background.
We cry some more. The crying passes, but then another wave, and more arrive.
We prepare for the inevitable – a funeral, a final goodbye, the return to daily life that will be emptier, one less. The world is not a better place without him. It is far worse.
Sometimes life goes along as it does. And then every now and again, the sky ruptures and falls down upon us and the waves wash over us and the pain is too much to bear but bear it we must.
Goodbye, my brother. I miss you. Too soon.