Grief and Gratitude

Raymond Carver LF

After our mamacita died, we just held each other closely and grieved and went about the business that is demanded of you when someone dies (I am looking at you God-awful probate court paperwork).

And then, after a couple weeks, we had to start again.  Return to our lives as if somehow it made sense to push forward.

On the first day that I sat down at my desk in front of my computer, I wanted to send a memo to the world that read:  EVERYTHING has changed.  Let’s forget work and instead heap lots of grace and understanding and tenderness on each other like we are the most magnificent, precious things ever.  Because we are.  Every single one of us.  Let’s meet right now and just hug each other and love each other and remind each other how much we matter.  Because our minutes are running out, people, and the most important thing we can do with what we have left is savor one another.

But I figured no one really wanted my memo and so, instead, I sat down at my desk and tried to re-enter a still moving world.

On my second day of re-entry, I did my hair for the first time in almost three weeks.  For weeks, all I had the energy to do was wash my hair and then pile the tangled mess on top of my head.  But this time, finally, I combed it after I got out of the shower and put in some frizz cream and then decided that was all the energy I had.  But that was more than other days and so I put a check in the win column.

On the third day of re-entry, I wondered how do you start to write again (when writing is how you process everything) when there is no ground under you, when you don’t even know who you are in this moment so how could you know what to say?

And my answer reminded me of a conversation that I had years (read: decades) ago with Mamacita when she told me to pray for something (I think it was a husband) and I told her that I only liked to offer two types of prayers on my own behalf—prayers of thanks and prayers for strength.  Ironically, those are the only two types of prayers I’ve been able to utter in the last few weeks (Oh, God, help me.  Help me please to put one foot in front of the other.  Help me to not pass out cold right here.  Help me to be of use in this situation. Help me not to fall apart right now.   Thank you for brining this person right here right now to prop me up.  Thank you for providing this food.  Thank you for giving us the time we did have.  Thank you for giving me these people.  Thank you for not letting her suffer.).  So it should come as no surprise that my answer for how to begin again is really more of the same, by offering thanks:

Thank you, mamacita, for loving us, for your fierce commitment to us and to your convictions.  Thank you for the sacrifices that you made for us and for being present wherever you were and your humor.  Thank you for loving our children and our partners just as much as you loved us.  Thank you for your special talents and your creativity.  Thank you for your devotion.

Thank you, papito, who showing us the boundlessness of love, for modeling partnership to us, for teaching us to feel what we feel and love what we love.  Thank you for your playfulness and humor and light.  You always offer so much light, even in darkness.

Thank you to my siblings and our partners.  I don’t think we could have handled this crap situation any better than we did together and I love how we supported each other through the ebbs and flow of our grief and the process.

Thank you to our neighbors who have been family for 35 years.  For running to my parents’ side when it happened, for not letting mom or any of us be alone in this.  To Melanie for riding in the ambulance with mom.  To Travis for feeding us over and over again.  To Melvin and Inge for showing up over and over again and thinking of the things we couldn’t.

Thank you to the Sotos, who have been family for 40 years, for showing up and doing whatever it took to help us from getting the house ready for guests to taking the men to get suits, from fixing the wheelchair ramp to tying ties, from just holding our hands through the awfulness to laughing with us when we just needed a release.

Thank you to all of our friends and family who showed up via text, email, Facebook message, phone, at the hospital, at our door.  Thank you for holding us, crying with us, praying with us, telling us stories, feeding us, offering your condolences, for watching and loving our children and our dogs, helping us choose readings for the service, staying a few extra days to show your love and support, for saying yes to whatever I asked, for taking over my personal and professional responsibilities.  Thank you for understanding when we had too much to say or nothing at all.  Thank you for coming from across the country, from across the Caribbean, from across town.  Thank you for sending your mamas to the visitation (you raised them right!), for crowding our mailboxes with cards, for providing us with so much beauty in flowers and plants, for sending memorial donations in to the church and Circle de Luz to recognize my mother’s life, for sharing the wisdom you have gained from your own walk with grief.  Thank you for not letting us fall off the side of the earth in lonely broken-heartedness.

If you had told me before I experienced it that grief does not travel alone, it walks with gratitude, I would not have understood.  I would have doubted you.  But now my grief is bound in gratitude, woven in a way that I cannot tell where one ends and one begins.  When I see you, however we interact, know that I am lit up by your love and grace and that you are absolutely beloved.

Thank you for walking with me.  Thank you for letting me walk with you in some way.  Thank you for allowing me to not just see but feel how much gratitude exists in grief.

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2 responses to “Grief and Gratitude”

  1. Belinda Howdyshell

    That was beautiful and spot on! I’m sorry for your loss and dread the days it happens to me. I will pray for you and your family.

  2. Joan McCutcheon

    Beautifully spoken, truly from your heart, Zita will be missed by so many especially myself. Love you

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