Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Up in Flames


There are books about where balloons go when they float away. Books about how to feel. How not to feel. Books that dissect grief spiritually, clinically and humorously. Books about the death of husbands. Books about the death of wives. Books about death from disease and death from trauma. Books about losing a military spouse. Books about hospice. Books about losing a child. Books about coping with the loss of a pet. Books about heaven. Books about dinosaurs dying. 37 books to help me heal.

If you are the next person to give me a book, make sure it has 37 matches.

Even fiction that has landed on my nightstand is centered on losing something or someone. Jen Lancaster loses her job and spectacularly spirals downward before regaining better altitude in her cheeky memoirs. Dorothy Koomson’s heroine relives the loss of her past as she comes to grips with the loss of her child. A woman survives the death of her lover by angrily refusing to leave the scene of her carnage and in The Shack grace, forgiveness and peace triumph over loss.

I read “The Shack” weeks after my husband died – I might be the only person on the planet that hated it.

Reliant on friends, family and good behavior for time away from the misery of our house, flimsy red envelopes became my salvation. For months, movies that he had pre-loaded into our delivery queue arrived. I did not laugh at the comedies and shed no tears over doomed romances. I was bored by action-packed thrillers. Academy-award winners fell flat in my living room and spouses died again and again as Halle picked through the ashes, love letters brought Hillary back to life, John found his way again after Grace was gone and Clive brought the boys back.    

At each turn, I was reminded of the simple fact that the life we had – and the dreams we still hadn’t realized – had evaporated quickly and painfully like dry brush in the path of vicious summer flames. Death was a bully, taunting me on the playground of our former life. I am still here.  And no amount of wine is going to make me go away.

You’re right. No amount of time with my merry friends has made you disappear. And it’s not like we haven’t tried. But I’ve never been afraid of schoolyard bullies. So even if you do insist on haunting every corner and crevice, there’s something you should know.

You do not have a starring role in the next chapter in the book of me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Teeter:

When our daughter was in grade one, her best neighourhood friend and younger sister were killed by their mother, who then committed suicide. I was at meetings in Yellowknife and got a call from my wife with the news. This was spooky because on the Saturday night preceeding, our daughter had a sleepover with the girls; on Sunday, they were dead. I was devastated by the news, the sense of helpless with these tragic events and not being able to connect with the family because of my work.

Fast forward a bit...my father died as a result of a fall in his apartment while we were on holidays in the US. Sudden news and my wife was in the hospital because of a significant infection. Then the preoccupation was care for the living; the dead can wait.

Far forward a bit more. Our daughter had nightmares, couldn't sleep, etc and we decided to send her to a child councillor. When her friends died, the school was a bit dismissive about the impact of these dramatic events upon kids. We saw something different. Counciling seemed to help unti our daughter said she had enough - she had moved on.

During the course of these sessions, we got a booklet with a quotes, texts about prayers about lose and grieving. I found myself reading these texts at night when all the family was in bed in absolute tears.

I had a lifetime conversation with my Dad that ended in mid sentence. It took me time to realize that I was processing the loss of my Dad when I thought I was looking at materials that had been provided as background to support my daughter.

The inquiries and questions underlying the conversations with my Dad remain that; they are part of me, a mystery and precious.

I hope you can embrace the disrupted conversation you have experienced; it has shaped you. But also, that you embrace your present (throw out the books) and fully engage is the possibilities of the future.