Black Watch

What do you wear to bear witness to the end of things for someone who is part of your family and you love has been the all-consuming question this week. I mean, it wasn’t really, but then again it was.

It’s a thing you can control. In a time where no one is very hungry or sleeping well, and there’s more sorrow than anyone, especially my sister, should have to bear, at least you can pick an outfit.

What is lovely to me is that the world rises.

So we put on our black, our mourning clothes, and we went to lend our bodies to the grieving at the wake. To watch my sister stand next to the body of her beloved, him but also no longer him, nearly drove me to my knees. She, and her children did what was necessary.

And then she walked out alone.

I’m not a fan of platitudes at death. It’s crap to lose people, and it’s more crap when they go too young. Sure, there are always upsides – death can be an end to suffering, or a quick death can mean minimal suffering. And there should always be a celebration that the person happened to those who love and care for them. “I’m sorry for your loss” is wonderful. “They are in a better place” is a pile of poo even if you really believe that. Keep it to yourself. Try “This is such crap. It’s garbage. I’m sorry.”

It is now our job to follow her into the long twilight ahead, to be there for as long as it takes, to sit quietly in the darkness. It’s not our job to rush this, only to be present with a hug, support, help.

We cannot go where she and her children are going, we can only stand watch to ensure that their journey is smoothed as much as possible. So stand we will, even as the waves of sorrow try to bring us down.

Grief, after all, is the price of love.

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