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Thursday, December 02, 2010


This picture was taken last year, in front of the rectory in Chatham.

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.

It's complicated.

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.

Because. J'aime.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

No words, dear. Just a very long, squeezy hug...and my prayers for you and Ms. Conroy on this day.

June Butler said...

Elizabeth, I send my love, blessings, and prayers on the anniversary of the loss of your daughter. I wish for you - somehow, some way - peace and hope during this Advent season.

Paul said...

May holy balm touch your soul this day, Elizabeth. With love and prayers.

Elaine C. said...

Thanks, I shared this with a parishioner who just lost his wife, and their 23 year old daughter died about 30 years ago ... he's alone in the world ... not a single blood relative left ... so I'm trying to figure out how to help ... he's coming to church every Sunday.

Kathy said...

"It just is." Yes.

{when you come home out of the cold)

Mama C said...

I agree. Catch this hug.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, one and all. My steps and my heart were lighter today knowing you were all holding me in prayer and love and support.

Donald Boyd said...

Elisabeth, my older daughter (then 24y.o.) was killed by a drunk driver on Nov. 12, 1992. I believe I may have a little understanding of where you are today. And don't well-meaning people say some of the damnedest dumb things! Our experience has been that by now although we never go so long as a day without thinking of, and missing, our daughter, we are able most of the time to think about other things (something we couldn't have done earlier). Anniversaries are still tough. You don't need any advice from me, and I offer none. I am glad to see that you well understand that you are not, and will never be, alone. When you weep, I believe that the Holy One weeps with you.
Bless you! Don

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Donald. "Takes one to know one" never had better application. Thank you for your kind words and your understanding.

Paul Powers said...

The only thing I can think of that would be worse than still feeling pain six years later is no longer feeling pain.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Prayers ascending for you all!

Rev. Richard Thornburgh said...

So true that loss and grief never "get better". What happens is that you learn to live with it, and that ability increases as time passes.

Ellie Finlay said...

Beloved Elizabeth: No words. Just prayer. But, yes, prayer. I promise.

Karen H. said...

No words at all, simply a long, deep, jagged breath.

Brother David said...

You are right, it does not get better and it does not get worse, but it does grow less acute. And the fond memories come flooding in easily.

It is 18 years and some months since Roberto died. I remember him every day as if it were yesterday. But my heart no longer painfully aches and makes living impossible. And I have my faith, my strong faith that we will be together again.

KJ said...

Agreed. I'm pretty sure I would not want it to get better.

walter said...

Holy Reading Moses and Martin Luther King Jr-We have been on a Mountain Top-Here are the Commandments: 1-Personal Freedom 2- Saddle your Dream 3-Mystic Wings 4-Solitary Individual 5-Dialogue Among Breathings 6-No Easy Sentimentality 7-Becoming Aware 8- Water As Spirit 9-No Traffic in Realism 11-Affirmative Mystic 12-Romantik Torah 13-Wink of Promise. In the inward naming of the One who keeps us centered and focused and truthful. Jeaime my Little Girl, Jeaime my Girl, Jeaime my Brother-With Soul Heart Mind,

Walter Vitale

alicia said...

to you and Barbara

Norris Battin said...

We'd have been married 33 years at Thanksgiving. She would have been 65 years old today, but she died 13 years ago.

Yes, it just is...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for understanding, Norris.