Today I am grieving. Just like I did yesterday, just like I probably will tomorrow. Today, I am grieving the death of a specific someone.
This specific someone was, like many people, uniquely difficult to describe because she was so outside of the norm yet somehow she appeared among us, able to blend in and be just like your average person.
She loved Jane Austen and Broadway musicals. She was an attentive, sweet mother. She was a supportive wife of patience and forbearance. She was delightful company to friend and stranger alike. She loved all things Disney.
In fact, the first time I heard her voice was through the apartment building intercom – I’d known him for nearly two decades and had come to meet her, his new girlfriend – and my first thought was, “She sounds like Snow White”.
When she swung open the door, clasped her hands to her chest, and breathlessly declared with utter joy – “I’m so delighted to meet you!” – I thought, “Oh my god, she is Snow White.”
Imagine her: she’s completely in love with everything. She has an endless supply of compassion and faith. Above all, she radiates a purity and innocence that otherwise only exists in animated movies from the 1950s.
Imagine, though, that she is also a university professor who achieved her PhD in Criminology with a dissertation called, “Policing the Grotesque: The Regulation of Pornography in Canada.”
She was badass.
Imagine also that she was an orphan by the time she married my friend at the age of 31, both parents, with whom she was very close, dying from illness within the previous two years.
She knew grief.
This specific someone wasn’t my someone.
She was her husband’s and daughter’s first.
And then her family and friends, and then people like me. I am on an outer circle of friends who were in her husband’s life more actively at a different time, and I probably stand just before a larger community of acquaintances, and then strangers.
But I still lost her. And so did you.
And don’t tell me, “She’s gone but not lost,” or “We never really lose someone who lives on in our hearts”…
And don’t even start with a musing on the death phobia of our culture and what it means to use the word “lost” instead of dead.
She’s dead. I know she’s dead.
But I lost something irretrievable and also, you know what I fucking mean.
She’s no longer among us. And now you, dear reader, can only hear after the fact that someone like her existed and you missed it. Trust me, that should break your heart a little.
The other night, I kissed my thirteen year old daughter’s forehead and suddenly my daughter smelled just the way she did when she was a baby – she had that baby smell. That baby smell. Remember it?
And the tears flooded my eyes,
She’ll never smell her baby’s hair again.
And it was unbearable. To think of her dying, knowing what she was losing, and the sheer velocity and volume of love that must have crushed her chest when she smelled her little girl’s hair and kissed her skin.
I became acutely aware of all the mothers. All the mothers who will never smell their babies again.
All the husbands who can’t quite believe this is happening. Who are suddenly single dads.
All the children who can’t quite believe the stories of how amazing their dead parents were because they can’t remember them any more, and honestly, who is ever really the saint they’re made out to have been?
Well, she was. Believe me, she was.
She wasn’t my someone. But her loss leads me to our loss. Mine and yours. My grief for her leads me to my grief for us.
So let me say this blessing for you…you who have just come to discover that you lost someone who was so dear to our world…
May your tears flow freely for those who have died. May your heart open to the naturalness of all feeling – grief, anger, numbness, hope – that accompanies awareness of our mortality. May you know I am with you in your time of pain, for all the losses you feel, for your own someones and somethings, and I thank you for letting me know about the ones I am missing. May we all die knowing we will be grieved.