When I entered the church, grief weighed on me like an anvil in a cartoon. Like an old episode of Bugs Bunny, I waited for the pencil to come and erase the heaviness of the moment, the grief alive and thick with its own smell...taste...feel. My relationship to the grief was sympathetic, only able to imagine the feeling of trying to breathe through quicksand that my girlfriend and her brothers must have been feeling looking at the shell of their mother laying in all that satin. The casket had to seem too small to encase the larger than life energy their mother walked with. The moment loomed close by when the casket would be closed and their mother's physical presence removed from them with grave finality.
I had not seen their mother but maybe twice since she was diagnosed with cancer. Unable to look directly at her laying in rest, the side glance told the tale of the ways that illness and death change the way we remember our loved ones. I wanted my last memory of her to be the full and vibrant woman she's always been to me. The sadness I felt for my friend and her family, unable to fully imagine what it feels like to lose your mother, transformed as, for a brief moment, I imagined not having my own. My mother and I are not the girlfriends that pal around together and talk about the most intimate details of our lives. I would never describe us as best friends, but her input and her insight, her example and her love are irreplaceable and I can't imagine not having her. My girlfriend and her mother were practically inseparable, carbon copies in physical beauty and determination. Like her mother, my girlfriend doesn't allow anyone to tell her "no" and her smile is always megawatt. She's lost 3 times, if not more, in no longer having her mother, best friend, and her children's grandmother. The closing of the casket drove that reality home for all of the kids and their collective hearts broke before our very eyes. I felt like an intruder on their private moment and at the same time necessary as a face and a body representative of the support she/they will need, and that all of us will surely provide.
The exhausted eyes and the words of strength and fear the children walked with were a telling sign of the strain of accepting being among the living in a time of loss. Responsibilities to others typically calls us to action, forcing us to remain present in this realm, but taking every stolen moment to slip back into "once upon a time." I smiled quietly to myself, remembering the ways I had been included in the family and the times I'd shared with them since I was 15. My memories are my comfort as I'm sure they will have to be for my girlfriend. As I thought back on the way we were as girls, I was left feeling that as the years have stretched further into adulthood and away from childhood, I haven't been present in the ways that I should have. A lot has been missed because there was no way around it, so I thought. Forcing the time to be present for the funeral was proof to me that perhaps things could have been worked through with a little more effort so that my presence isn't only felt in the times of need but in celebration, triumph, transition, and rites of passage. I spent most of my life responding to things verbally and physically with "whatever you need," and neglecting myself. In the last several years my goals and a need to pay attention to myself have perhaps caused me to lose sight of the things that are most important. As always, the quest for balance is the struggle and I must figure out how to take care of myself while still connecting with those that mean the most to me. The shift will probably have to be in attitude. Instead of feeling like reaching into all of these spaces that the people I love fill and feeling like it's taking away from me, I have to realize and remember that it also feeds. Love feeds.
I used to live like this and felt, much like I often do in my classroom, I'm being eaten alive by those who need to feed off of what I provide. We all do this in a way that is unique to us and my way is to nurture and support. I turned around one too many times, in need myself, and found no one. We unfairly believe that those who provide strength don't also need strength provided. I put those parts of me in storage and pushed it under the bed. Nurturing and supportive Me is covered in dust bunnies but it's time to do more than say I love you. It's time to BE the love again.
Watch me move.