I disappeared for awhile there because I lost my voice. Well, not my voice so much as my words. They just left me.
In the days and weeks after my mom passed away, I had to have all the words. Words to let family members and friends know the devastating news the doctors had delivered to us, words to let the doctors know it was time to stop the machinery that was keeping our mamacita alive when she had already left us (for all intents and purposes) days before, words to choose a casket and flowers and an outfit remotely suitable enough for saying goodbye to our mamacita, words to write my mom’s obituary and eulogy and the thank you notes to all of the sweet people who delivered meals, held us, sat with us, told us stories about our mamacita and shook their heads in disbelief with us, words to navigate the phone calls to banks, insurance companies and probate court, words to explain death to a 7-year-old who had just lost his best friend, words to console my stunned father who was in the midst of a conversation with my mamacita when she left us, words to explain to my husband why I couldn’t come straight home from the grocery store because I was bawling in my car. There were just so many words that had to be said in the weeks and months immediately after my mamacita died.
Then the semester started and I needed to be a good teacher (well, as good as I could be at the moment), a good mother, a good volunteer for Circle de Luz and my other commitments. Then there were professional projects that had to get done and emergencies and the stuff that lines life all demanding the same thing: still more words. And, finally, the school year was over and the world seemed to lose its mind and I was still managing my mother’s estate, my dad’s next steps, my little family’s life, and big transitions in different parts of my life, and the word well, which was already sort of dry, totally evaporated.
In the last couple months, I have been probably the quietest I have ever been. Not just in my writing life, but in all areas of my life. A few weeks ago, I told a friend how weary I was, how exhausted, how extinguished. But I couldn’t even find those words. I said, “I just feel so….” and she was the one who filled in the blank.
I kept thinking, ‘I want my light back.’ But, truth be told, I’ve been so extinguished that I was starting to think any memories of light weren’t memories at all but mirages.
Then last week, we went on our annual trip to Sunset Beach, a little barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. And there, washed in salt water and sweat and even tears, I felt a little something shift in me. Like words might be coming back to me, like I might have something to say, like maybe I was still tired but not so weary. Like maybe, just maybe, way was being made within me, like maybe I was no longer weighed down by all the lead balloons, maybe some of them had popped or drifted, somehow.
I am no expert on grief. I’ve just been a person sitting in it for a little more than the last year, but what I’ve learned over this time is that it is best not to force the healing or happiness or productivity or profundity, either. Waiting for your soul to journey through its loss and its new growth actually gives it the room to find something true. There is no timetable for when the words come back. For some people, it might be days, others months, others years. To paraphrase Mary Oliver, you just have to let the soft animal of your body feel what it feels until it is ready to announce your new place in the family of things.
So, I have found words again. Not all of them, but enough to begin again. I look forward to communing with you again in this space, allowing our words, spoken and unspoken, to connect us and our souls to radiate light for each of us to use to navigate the terrain ahead. Thank you for being patient with me. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for the light you offer the world (because you do, even if you sometimes doubt it).