Our losses become a part of who we are,
as precious to us as other aspects of our selves,
and so does the transcendence of those losses.
Patricia Weenolsen, 1998
In 1994, my daughter's death ripped a huge hole through my heart. I would never get to hear her voice, or feel her arms around my neck, or watch her walk down the aisle. I would never get to be with her as she gave birth to her own children. I would never get to laugh with her, weep with her, celebrate with her, sit in silence with her, braid her hair, take her to college, dress her for prom, comfort her fears.
How do you quantify those losses? What number can you assign- what words can you offer- that would tell the story of what has been irretrievably lost?
I buried her on August 1, 1994, surrendering her 32" long pink satin coffin to the men in grey suits. They lowered her casket into the ground, and I felt myself lunge toward her, like elastic returning to its natural state. Every cell in my body was programmed to be with her.
I wanted to cremate her and have her at home, close to me, where she belonged. Others thought it would be "bad for me." As often in the early days of grief, my desires were defeated without a fight. After all, battling requires sentience and strength, and I had neither.
Gusts of sufferings, like the wind, came frequently at first; though some gusts were more like tidal waves that crashed down upon me without warning. Grief consumed all the space in life- in my body and mind and heart- like a toddler, it commanded my attention incessantly. I felt condemned to this liminal place between life and death from which I could not expiate myself.
Gradually, I was able to make space for living again. Grief moved aside, and joy stood as a camrade next to my grief. My grief- it was mine. I earned it, I owned it. And it eventually became my friend too.
I'm not sure how, but I've survived for nearly 14 years. In the blink of an eye, more than 5000 days have passed absent the presence of one of my precious children. But not a single second of any hour of any day of any month of any year have I not been cognizant of her absence. As C.S. Lewis said, "Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything." And I've tried to make good on the promises I made her in 1994 while I sat on my closet floor. Those promises, sacred and and private, painfully sculpted me into the person I am today.
This grief is a part of me now. I accept it with all the pain, suffering, angst, and despair. I accept it. And I've learned to use it to transcend my place in the world. It's the only way that I can make sense of the senseless- meaning of the meaninglessness- find purpose in the purposelessness. Acceptance that this grief was going to remain my constant companion was my pardon.
And today at 2:00 p.m., I will make good on one of those closet-floor promises. I will begin the process to bring her home. Her pink coffin will be freed from the ground, and I'll take her back from the men in grey suits. Her cremains will be at home, in her butsudan, with the few reminders I have of her profound existence in the world. The beauty is finally bigger than the pain...
And in some small way, I feel like she'll be closer to where she's belonged all these years.