Give Sorrow Words

“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.” Shakespeare, Macbeth

My dear mother-in-law passed into Eternal Life last Thursday, and we laid her to rest yesterday. We are deeply saddened by losing her at what seems too soon a time; she was only 65. We shared with her a Catholic faith and are consoled by the fact that she was able to receive the sacraments until very close to death, and her heart longed for Heaven. If she’s not there yet, she will be.

Today is the first day of inactivity after several weeks of rapid decline and days of bedside vigils, followed by funeral planning and more days of accepting condolences and recounting happy memories with multitudinous family and friends. Right now, I’m not sure where we each are in our own grieving processes, but I’ve eschewed my usual contact lenses for some dusty coke-bottle glasses today to give my red eyes a chance to recover (though admittedly I cry as I type).

A big part of my personal grief is that I am facing a veritable sea of good deeds I can no longer repay, at least in kind. My MIL gave me one day a week, almost every week, for over 10 years… “Grandma Day”, the envy of my friends… where she would come over and watch my growing brood and give me the chance to get out of the house unencumbered. Not only did it save my sanity as a young mother and give the two of us a regular chance to catch up on the goings-on of life, but it forged a solid relationship between her and all of my kids. I had always envisioned myself visiting her often in her later life, returning the kindness she showered on me over all those years. I now need to learn to live with a heavy debt of goodwill I will never be able to pay back, and must find ways to pay forward instead.

I have plenty of distractions to occupy my time now that school is out and we’re on the other side of this unpredictable but inevitable event. Many things I have put off, many things I am now inspired to do. And yet being distracted from the reality of the situation isn’t the solution to it. I suspect the process of finding a new normal after a massive loss like this takes much more than time… lots of unplanned mental wandering, accepting little by little that even these last memories can be joyful, and treasuring the big and small blessings that her life made possible.

Midwife for Souls

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Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost

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