Grief is strange. This week it began with a phone call, a change in the pace of the day. It felt right to hold the space, make some tea, and be still. It wasn’t all together a surprise. Peggy had been very sick. There had been hope, but not much. Still, we’d assumed months when there were only days.
She was the last of the greats. Fixtures in living rooms, waiting at the end of telephone lines, long haul flights, and day long drives with too many pit stops; to our hold babies, to rejoice at the news of their births. She’d often motion to the nearest child, pat the seat next to her with a bony hand, “why don’t you come on over here and sit next to me?”
We brought them sweet buns. The cream filled kind they liked. We served them sausage sandwiches, and they made us strawberry cakes. We told them about our busy lives. We sent flowers, and chocolates, and made the time. At least we hope we did, because now all we have is fragments, of stories, of lifetimes before us. And a pocket full of regrets.
It makes me more than uncomfortable, this changing of the guards. I wonder if life can ever be quite so joyful as it was before. Now that the voices on the end of the phone are different, and there are no more babies left to hold.
Tonight Andy tried on his suit, the one he’s bought for his grandmother’s funeral. The tears started to flow because if there’s one thing I can’t handle it’s strong men suddenly vulnerable. Men lowering caskets, and buttoning suit shirts. “You look very nice,” I tell him as I watch him struggle with his tie, struggle to find his role. I want to pull him close, make the hurt stop, but I can’t.
Soon we’ll set out with a cooler full of meals, and black clothes zipped. We’ll leave the kids behind because we’re afraid for them to confront mortality. Because we don’t have an explanation, and just holding them won’t feel like enough. We’ll share hugs with dear ones, and food, and mostly we’ll listen. To stories now too precious, of a time before, when speech wasn’t perverted by tumor, hips held toddlers and laundry baskets, and kidneys filtered. When there were whole lives still to be lived, when babies laughed, and there were years, not moments.