It’s been a teeth-rattling week.
I’m cozied up in J’s favorite armchair (he’s diplomatically taken the couch) staving off the onslaught of indoor air conditioning. It’s been a glorious day, the kind of North Carolina day when i see old friends and make new friends. The kind of day when the pollen coats your shoes from walking in sun-dappled grass, the kind of day when the flower blossoms make you forget the annoyance of yellow stains.
But my newsfeed is not so sated with Guglhupf chocolate as i am. My newsfeed is full of memes of the Sandy Hook children’s faces juxtaposed to the US Senate, it’s pictures memorializing Boston. It is full of arguments over the atrocities that occurred at the same time as the Boston Marathon in Afghanistan, where thirty people were killed at a wedding. Reasons for tremendously legitimate anger, and tremendously legitimate questions to ask.
And also on my newsfeed, buried within it all, is an obituary my aunt posted of my grandmother.
Grief is a season, my mother always says. Grief, she says, is exhausting, hard work. My grandfather has done little else but sleep, these past few days. The funeral has passed, out-of-town relatives returning to their homes afar. Their support has not abated, but the forefront of the crisis is gone. And so our refrigerator’s stock of casseroles dwindles and life starts to resume a trodden pace.
The grief, though, remains.
I remember nearly needing to leave the sanctuary when, at church, they read off the names of the children at Sandy Hook. How several pews ahead there squirmed an impish little one in a striped shirt, tugging on his mother’s sleeve for attention.
The human connections, the moments i remember with faces and feelings attached, remain. Listening to WUNC with my grandmother on a rare solo visit before i left for college. The sigh of relief at texts from friends in Boston assuring us they were okay. I don’t recall the macroscopic picture so much as i recall the details, details interwoven with emotion and simplicity.
And maybe that’s why we can’t carry grief forever the way we are grieving now. We can’t hold the enormity of tragedy. It is too great for human hands. There is a time to sleep all day. A time to let it crush and consume. And i don’t want to anticipate so much to say it’s time for us to move on – it’s not. For anything. This is the time to mourn, and we don’t always get to decided when we are done mourning. Grief, in some ways, gets to decide when it’s done with us.
But it is in doing the hard work of grief, as my mother says, that i have to choose to remember that little boy in his striped shirt pestering his mother. Being a squirmy kid, probably not understanding why such a pall was cast over his parents. I choose to eat shrimp and grits with my Papa, talking about Granny but also about summer plans. School. The elusive normality we all crave.
I have to choose to see this Carolina day for all it’s possibility, even when at the corners of every conversation lurks a greater sadness. The work of grieving does not need to stay, forever, the only work i see.