Friday, April 11, 2008

Men in grey suits

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.


11 comments:

Angela said...

Man Joanne, your words pierce the soul...thank you for sharing with those that love you very much...
Chey is so blessed to be so loved.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family today.

Angela

Theo said...

Joanne,

Thank you for sharing this with us. Yes, the absence of our children is just as C.S. Lewis said, "like the sky, spread over everything." So many who cannot understand the pervasiveness of this absence can hopefully glean some understanding from the words of others of us who live it daily. I know how profound this day is for you and your family and I send love and wishes of peace and comfort as Cheyenne is brought home to be with you.

Love,
Karla

Theo said...

Joanne,

Thank you for sharing this with us. Yes, the absence of our children is just as C.S. Lewis said, "like the sky, spread over everything." So many who cannot understand the pervasiveness of this absence can hopefully glean some understanding from the words of others of us who live it daily. I know how profound this day is for you and your family and I send love and wishes of peace and comfort as Cheyenne is brought home to be with you.

Love,
Karla

jenbugafer said...

Beautifully written.

I had my son, Othello, cremated. In his two years, he was always by my side. We were inseperable. After his death - I could not bear to put him in a lonely grave...

I have him here in my home. I also have a bit of his cremains in a silver locket, that I wear around my neck...close to my heart.

I am glad that you are bringng your little girl home...Where she can "be with you".

Hugs

Jennifer

1,000 Faces of MotherHenna said...

You are so so so so so on my mind today! I can't stop thinking about you and Chey. Hope that you feel our supportive vibes of looooove just waving all the way there to you. We love you so much... be gentle with you today and know that our hearts are with you as you bring Chey home.
xoxooxx
k & h (kota, too)

Sarah Bain said...

Jo,

You are still in my heart and on my mind and Chey is staring right at me! Wow, you will love having her home. (does that sound strange?) but you will have her back in a different way in your home and in some small way it will bring a bit more peace. That's what grace does for me each day. Grace and peace and big, big love!

Sarah

Christine said...

Your words are such an inspiration to me as this has haunted me for seven years now. I have always wanted Nora closer to our family and not in the cold ground. It has felt wrong leaving her for so many years. I have tried to voice concerns in the past but the verbal abuse that came from that silenced me into acceptance. Now what if.....
I hope yesterday was peaceful, Chey is loved so very much. Thank you for sharing this moment with us.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you for your very kind and loving comments, my friends...

Jennifer Flynn said...

Joanne,

Thank you for having the courage to share this with us. I have been thinking about you and your family all weekend. I am glad that you will finally have Cheyenne at home where you feel she belongs. The picture you posted is breathtaking. Your words touched my heart and express feelings that I have not been able to express myself. Thank you for that as well.

You are in my thoughts and prayers,
Jennifer Flynn

Corinne said...

Joanne,
I saw the picture and didn't understand what I was seeing until I read about the men in the grey suits. There are no words.

I am so glad that you have taken this step to bring your precious daughter home to be nearer to you, as you wish her to be.

With love,
Corinne O'Flynn in CO

Monica H said...

Wow! I think it's great that she is going to be home with you. I'd love to have my boys home with me too. I'm glad after 13 years your family is complete.

Becoming...

""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul


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