Every Devil - Tanya Donelly (mp3)
Wish You Well - Katie Herzig (mp3)
She’s thinking about my biological father. Her brain has called up some memory -- a passionate kiss, or an intense fight, or some random moment where their fingers grazed one another as they reached for the salt shaker at the same time, whatever -- and she has fallen into that well of grief where her mind still struggles to accept that he’s dead.
This is fiction. I made it up.
I don’t have a specific memory of a specific morning from a specific childhood age. What I do have is a jumble of memories of seeing my mother stare off into the distance, yanked out of body and out of that moment, spaced out and incapable of communicating. And I have the wisdom and experience of age now, enough to realize she was mourning her dead husband, enough to realize she almost never let me in on this secret for fear of it having some undesirable consequence on my own childhood.
As I continue my all-too-rapid approach to midlife, I’ve learned it’s not just my mom who has these lost spells. We all do at some point. Once we’ve encountered a tragedy or event too powerful for us to simply swallow and process, our minds will occasionally pull us away from reality and force us to continue digesting the meaning and consequence of a lost loved one, or a divorce, or a tornado ripping our house to shreds, or a serious car accident.
Because we’re supposed to be better. We’re supposed to have healed. We had our time to mourn, and now it’s way past time to have moved on.
There might be no lonelier and more heartbreaking thing to say, to oneself or someone else, than “It’s time to move on.” If you don’t believe me, go rewatch Ghost.
My point is this. Think of someone you know -- anyone, really -- who has lost a loved one. Be it the death of a parent from old age or cancer, or a sibling, or a child. It can even be someone who went through a rough divorce. Think of that person in your head.
Now, right now, no matter how long ago that tragic moment occurred, think about writing them a letter, by hand, telling them that they’re on your mind. (You can add in a little religious seasoning to taste if you lean that way, but it’s not necessary.)
Tell them they are on your mind and your heart. Tell them you know, from your own experiences, that we might not ever fully heal from the tragedies we survive, but maybe that’s not always a bad thing. Tell them that you admire them for how very well they’ve seemed to manage, and even though there’s probably nothing you can do, you’re thinking of them and there if they need anything.
Yes, it’s possible your note will make that person cry. It’s possible you’ll be picking an emotional scab that was better left all crusty, and if that’s the case, I apologize to the both of you. But I can tell you by name the two people who have reached out to me at completely unexpected and random times, and I can tell you I remember their act of concern and kindness a bajillion times more intensely than I remember those covered dishes and those hugs of sympathy at the visitation.
It never hurts to know someone is thinking of you.