Grief, Redemption, and calling the Unknown Home

shawshankThe sound was deafening. I heard it, felt it the way winds can howl like banshees and blow open weak doors. With a shudder, the stillness broke like a bomb going off in a prayer.

The dream of falling startled me awake in the strangeness of that place, on the edge of the bed. So familiar and solid, though, for such a shaky thing, that dream.

The night, it did not change. It remained, by measure of all physical senses, intact. Cars passed outside, tires whispered on streets, headlights glimmered through the window, panned across the wall. The room still smelled of clean laundry, burnt coffee. Trees swayed in the breeze, branches danced shadows in light of the Moon. Hands in my hair, flat and greasy, through the coiff of sleep deprivation. The seconds hand continued a barely-audible tick-tock rotation around the clock, hanging on the wall over a table overcrowded with flower arrangements, cards, and photographs.

Our Mother was gone.

Slipped away in the stillness.

In between moments. I knew it was coming. Now, the moment had come.

Some time has passed. Yesterday marked an entire year since her passing. I am grateful. The first year is the hardest. The first Mother’s Day without Mom, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, et al. We, those of us left in our family, celebrated each of these alone, probably so we would not stare at each other from across the table, sighing to fill the emptiness that is her absence. That is not what I had expected we would do but that is how the story goes.

Since she left us, we have been busy as bees, survivors rebuilding our respective hives, far-flung here and there. ‘Home’ is no longer a centralized reference point we once kept somewhere safe in a room in our minds. When the matriarch dies, it changes everything. This is magnified by the way everyone deals with grief in their own way.

At first it is startling, in that Unknown River. The current of being awash in a new paradigm grabbed me and left me often feeling lost. The center is dispersed. Everything feels fractured. No point of reference. In our case, Mom asked there be no funeral. No grave. Sometimes I crave it, though. Sometimes I wish there was a single place I could go and talk to her. Then, again, in the next breath I remind myself: anywhere. After a while it is not as scary as it is at the outset. It is just getting past the beginning that is rough. Pretty rough, yeah.

Things will disperse, given enough time. Is it true to say that it is the default? Is it only by real intervention something will hold still for any time at all? Is it the nature of most things to mingle back into the fray of time and memory?

shawshank2Fortunately, given enough time, the frayed can also be arranged back into some semblance of order. It is what I seem to spend my energies doing, lately. There is comfort in it, even though deep down, beneath the hidden machinery, I am aware of its temporalness. Is that even a word? Guess so.

I channel the discomfort into celebrating her life, our life, LIFE, especially with my little boy. The world is only new with a two-year-old, and there is no better ballast than the extreme wonder he brings full-on into each and every moment. Lately, the only tears I have are sheer joy and awe. I thank him constantly.

The upside is this: grief is as often inspiring as it is daunting. It is work, tinkering, learning new technologies, writing, music, creative projects. The heavy stuff of life is also the greatest muse. I have learned some good, hard-won lessons. Keeping them close is just as important and I am grateful they are there.

Oh, funny life. The unknown. Call it home.