So here’s what’s happening. My thoughts are very focused on death, not so much in a macabre way, but on death nonetheless.
Ever since heading to the emergency room on Feb. 10 for what I now know is a medial meniscus tear in my left knee, I have been pretty sidelined. The very next day, Whitney Houston died and me and my crutches were just hanging out and taking it all in. Death from afar, but yet felt so poignantly.
Then on Feb. 23, my Aunt Rosie passed away quite suddenly, leaving my cousin who was born into a family of four as the last one left. To say we were all astonished is an understatement. I can’t really fathom his grief. My aunt always had a smile on her face and could flatten anybody in her path with a comment. Years ago she told me a story of how bill collectors continued to call for her mother after she’d passed away. Finally one day instead of arguing Aunt Rosie said, ‘You want her new address?’ and proceeded to give the pesky caller the address for North Arlington Cemetery. Love that. Love her.
I am so gratified that after sending each of my six aunts a Lenox Christmas ornament in the mail in December that Aunt Rosie called to thank me. We talked for a while and she wished me a good trip knowing I was heading to Palm Springs to celebrate my 50th birthday. Her funeral was Monday, Feb. 27.
That Friday, March 2, I received news of my friend Kevin’s sudden death from a heart attack. He was 46. His funeral service was March 9, just two days ago, so it is all still very surreal.
As I try to get perspective on all this, feel my way through instead of numbing myself, and allow whatever bubbles up to come and be with it, I am acutely aware that I don’t want to be the person who is consumed in a death zone. I almost didn’t write this post because I felt it might depress my readers. But you know, it was me who chose to call this blog “Unfettered” and so it seemed kind of hypocritical and pointless to conjure up some sunshine and blow it up my readers’ bums.
I don’t believe it is at all a coincidence that I’m sidelined — or at this point just slowed down — by the knee injury. It’s divine design that I must be with these thoughts, process them and not give in to the urge to distract myself around the clock. For me, writing is feeling. Healing the knee is a metaphor for so much more. I present to you my thoughts, a little scattered but oh so real.
I walk around my home muttering, talking to God, talking to Kevin, calmly asking questions, admonishing them one minute for this crazy turn of events, acknowledging in the next that he completed his mission with grace. It all makes sense. None of it makes sense. WTF.
People who are uncomfortable with grief want me to distract myself because they love me. Bounce back. Be Nancy again. How to tell them that won’t be happening? There’s no ‘again.’ There’s a different version of Nancy, a more whole one, I’d venture to say, who is emerging from this. She plucked some Pema Chodron off her shelf today and lapped up an essay called “Hopelessness and Death” that begins thus:
If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. This is the first step on the path.
I was one of those folks who thought that talking about a deceased person would “remind” the sad person of him and therefore it should be avoided. At least in my case, that isn’t true. I prefer to talk about it because it really helps. I don’t find it creepy to ponder what to do with that phone message from Kevin from November that is still saved in my voice mail. It soothes me to hear his voice, especially because that day he was reaching out because his mother had died.
I suspect this is the tip of the iceberg. I don’t want to wear people out, but I don’t want to lie to them either. Thoughts come and go, heavy and light and everything in between. I go with it. I write it here.
That is my life in this moment.