Thursday, December 02, 2010
I had it planted there, in the place of an unsightly hole in the front yard of the rectory, and called it "The Jaime Tree" in honor of our eldest daughter who died December 2, 2004.
Today is the sixth anniversary of her death.
I've just written those words, but it's still hard to get my head wrapped around them.
She was a beautiful young woman. Intelligent. Passionate. Feisty. Opinionated. Articulate. Willful. Compassionate. Funny. And, beautiful. Truly.
Her name comes from the French J'aime: "I love".
She loved to read. She loved music. She loved to cook. She loved Christmas. She loved surprise gifts. She loved her husband and family. She loved her new puppy, Lenny. She loved Boston. She loved to dance. She loved to walk. Long walks. Especially at night. Or, during a storm.
She was just like that.
I find great comfort that there's a 'Jaime Tree'. That it is in Chatham, NJ - a place where she would never - EVER - live, matters not. She loved the city. Boston, preferably. Where she could walk. And see lots of different people.
Here's what matters: That there is a memorial to her - a living, breathing thing that grows in a formerly unsightly hole in the front lawn of the rectory and fills it with beauty - is a balm to my grieving soul.
And, I think, makes her smile.
Here's the problem with grief. Everyone says it "gets better".
It does not.
It doesn't get better. It doesn't get worse. It just . . .is.
Which is why grief is a problem. It never goes away. Not really. Ever.
It weaves itself in and out throughout time and space, sometimes tripping over itself, tangling itself in the strings of the heart, bumping into the tender places that are just starting to heal, getting caught and stuck in the broken places.
It makes unwanted appearances at family gatherings or milestones. Shows up unexpectedly in the aisle of a grocery store when a certain tune comes over the speaker - even in a "muzak" version. Catches you off guard while looking for a birthday card which would have been perfect for her.
And you find yourself weeping, trying to avoid the stares and gawks of other unsuspecting customers. You dry your tears and think to yourself, repeating the lie you've told yourself and dismissed a hundred times before, "Damn it! I thought it was suppose to get easier over time."
It doesn't. It just . . . .is.
The lie is worse than the truth. Isn't that often the case?
Even accepting that isn't easy. Indeed, accepting grief as a constant companion - learning how to walk and talk and live with it - is some of the hardest work I've ever done. Much harder than giving birth.
Worse is that people try to "help". Some try to get you to "talk about it" - even when that's the last thing you want to do. Some try so hard to say "the right thing" they end up making it worse.
And, some try to get you to go to church. Sigh. I know this is going to sound terrible for a priest to say, but sometimes, church is the last place in the world a grieving person wants - or even needs - to be.
Too many people. Even though you know you shouldn't - don't really want to - be alone. Too much 'well intended kindness' can be even more painful than the need - the ache for - kindness.
Too many memories. Good ones. Bad ones.
An inescapable sense of judgment. Shoulds. Oughts. Maybes.
So, you'll excuse me if I take my leave today. I'm going into Rehoboth Beach to walk the Boardwalk and listen to the ocean. Watch the seagulls cry out as the waves crash on the shore. Lose myself in the cold, steel-gray-blue sky. Feel fleeting moments of the warmth of the sun as the cold ocean breeze slaps itself against my face. My hands. My body. My tears.
Remind myself about the small mercies and great mystery of being fully alive.
Look into some of the beautiful ocean side homes and see if I can catch a glimpse of a Christmas tree, by the window, dressed in lights and tinsel and ornaments.
And, pick over the broken, torn pieces in my heart, untangling the web of grief, searching for small slivers of gratitude. And, hope. And, comfort. And, joy.