From The Raven Warrior: “Go climb the mountain, and as you take each step, leave grief behind in your journey to the top.” Climbing a mountain is an arduous task, especially with no trail. You know you must go up, but which route? There’s information about the stages of grief and I believe there’s specific steps, but the majority will be custom-made for each loss, steps that will reveal themselves as one foot is put in front of the other. Climbing isn’t quick, it isn’t thoughtless, it isn’t painless. In fact just the opposite. I would rather walk 10 miles on level ground than 1 mile up, but up I went, carrying my life on my back, and my life, full of grief, wasn’t light like a down sleeping bag, but instead like a cast iron frying pan. I let the life I lost tag along. It took a while before I realized how much he distracted me from each step, each opportunity to lighten my pack by pausing long enough to address my grief, and everything incapacitating I carried. I had to let him lag further and further behind, for I alone have the strength to keep climbing.
From The Raven Warrior: “But it is the nature of the beast to hope to continue, no matter what. The deepest part of our mind doesn’t believe in death.” I’ve often wondered why the thought of one of us dying tomorrow never came into play until one of us did. We had arguments and lived with the silent treatment for days, assuming we’d get over it one of these days and we did because one of those days came. Our thinking regarding resolution, forgiveness, and reconciliation was future based – there would be more days. It was never, no future based – there would be no more days. There’s a huge difference between the two – now being extremely important to the second. Only when something happened to make the certainty of death real did I let the fact that continuing into tomorrow isn’t a given. I don’t live in a constant state of doom and gloom, but it influences now verses later. Would our interactions on March 24, 2011 have been different if I knew he would die the next day. Yes. Why? Because imminent death makes me want to be a better person? Shame on me to need such a reason.
After my granddaughter behaved badly, her brother called her a bucket dipper. A what? In his classroom, each student has a bucket and when you do something kind or helpful you get a golden stick. You must have 5 sticks to get a prize. Each time you’re bad, you have to take one away, becoming a bucket dipper. It makes the kids very aware of both good and bad behavior towards others. He currently has one, other kids some, and others none. Oh, to change our world from not emphasizing responsibility and not demanding consequences for behaving badly, to a world where everyone carries a bucket, collecting golden sticks. Where the prizes would include privileges, like driving a car, getting promoted, and having children, and everyone you see will know if you’re a caring and kind person because of what’s in your bucket. But who would judge? Initially it could be everyone we interact with like parents, teachers, and employers. But the goal would be to learn to judge yourself and challenge yourself, considering your own actions, not because you don’t want to be a bucket dipper but for the joy of being kind, whether others are watching or not.
As my granddaughter sat on my lap I couldn’t help but think of another lap she could be sitting on, if only . . . I’m sad for him not knowing her, and sad for her not knowing him. It’s going to happen to me too. I can’t say for certain my great grandchildren will get the chance to know me. I don’t think about those yet born because they’re too far away from now to imagine and there are those, here right now, that hold my attention. My own family history tells me that the more future the generation, the less they’ll remember anything about me. If it’s only a few things, what would I want them to be? I can’t come up with anything significant enough to last several generations, except to impact this generation, beginning with the lives of my children, and now my grandchildren who can impact the people they meet and the lives they will create. All I have is now to demonstrate kindness, love, and hard work, to share my knowledge; to make a difference. If that carries into the future, wonderful! But if not, at least I didn’t sit back and do nothing.
The songs I like to sing tell a story. Not about anyone amazing, just ordinary, real life people. I base ordinary and real on my own experiences, not knowing what any other people’s lives are like. I’d have to be a fly on the wall to witness their real, unfiltered relationships, who and what they hold important, how they love, and how the underlying forces at work in families impact the development of individual lives. I’ve rarely witnessed how other families deal with stress, disappointment, struggles, and conflict because those things are difficult enough to share within a family let alone to those without. There’s millions of little worlds out there. It might be possible to guess what some of those worlds are like, but it would be an infinitesimal number compared to how many I couldn’t even begin to imagine. I’ve ask the questions, why is that person like that or why are they doing that? Both questions are based on what living in my world is like. Can I expand my shortsightedness without a complete map of what their life is like? Yes, by tearing down the judgement wall, having an open heart and mind, and desiring to understand.
I was reminded recently about how few people helped me, other than words, after my husband died. Maybe people don’t know what to do, so they’re only left with words. I heard so many kind, encouraging, and loving ones, making me feel cared about, but only temporarily. It didn’t take long before everyone went back to their lives, some continuing to grieve to whatever extent my husband was rooted in their hearts. Words were used to share feelings and give advice, but then a line was drawn, over which few dared to venture, because stepping over meant they’d have to act. No words can help fill the empty place in my life. No words can teach me how to take care of the things I must now do by myself. No words can make me feel not alone. But actions, simple enough, except for time, can. Include me in your life, actively seek to be included in mine, and show me how to do the things I wasn’t responsible for. I’m so thankful for the few that stepped over the line. Their actions provide much needed support, making it possible for me to work though the healing on my own.
Staring at a cell phone in silence has become an epidemic; alone, or worse, in the company of others. The vision in the song, The Sound of Silence, written in 1964, 43 years before the widespread use of cell phones, has literally come true. “People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening. . . . Silence like a cancer grows. Take my arms that I might reach you.” I thought it sad when the Velcro industry removed the need to learn how to tie your shoes, but the use of social media to replace the exchange of voices and the need to be physically present is far worse. We’re still using words but without a voice to bring them to life, without full, descriptive sentences and complete words. We use our eyes to hear, so there’s no need to listen, no inflection to interpret. Our “friends” have grown considerably, but in number, not quality, quickly noticing and being noticed by large impersonal groups of people, making the meaning of the song more true than it was in the 60’s – “the inability of people to communicate with each other, . . . especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.” (Art Garfunkel)