On Grief

The Dreamer
9"x12" mixed media on canvas panel
Three of my loved ones have passed away since November, including my Buddhist mentor of a decade.

The third funeral was this past Saturday. I am reminded of the year 2012 when I lost three other loved ones in less than six months. Then as now, I find myself in states I've named "synaptic misfires." Somewhere between thought and action, my default mode seems to be staring randomly off into space with spontaneous tears.

Grief hits us all in unexpected ways. We can be completely fine, accepting of the inevitability or shock of the person's passing. Then in the span of a minute, we are distraught and beyond comfort, writhing with the pain of the loss. And all this goes on before we even delve into emotional reaction to how they died or why.

I have no wisdom to impart about grief. I can honestly say I've reacted to it in ways even I can't understand. Grief is unpredictable chaos within the system, a storm of the mind you navigate as best you can until you land on healed shores.

It's also true that sometimes there are no shores. It's entirely possible to lose someone so close that part of you dies with them. Survivors of large-scale tragedies can also lose part of themselves to the trauma. I've met some individuals like this, ghosts of themselves. I was almost one of them.

To keep going, I've accepted that my losses in this life place me on a boat with turbulent water in every direction. Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that there's no land in the landscape of my heart.  Now my third feat on this journey has been attempting to walk on the waters of the mind at peace with all of it. Some days are admittedly better than others.

For my part, I focus more on what my loved ones taught me while they were here rather than their absence. My mentor imparted a passion for peace of mind. My honorary uncle told me stories about my biological father I never knew. My aunt had an astounding ability to find humor in even the most grim situations. And all of them were survivors of circumstances that might have crushed anyone else. Yet they kept going.

To me, these lessons are their immortality. It's how they remain alive in my heart after the last prayer is said and the funeral rites draw to a close. In my mind's eye, I can see each one of them in these brilliant moments. These are diamonds of time I own alone. 

The night before she passed, the final conversation between my aunt and I involved our infamous movie nights. It was our custom to stay up until 5 am when I visited, scaring each other silly with a horror film marathon. This led to a very long sidebar on Luke Evans. She adored watching him because she said he was hot. It makes me laugh remembering this. And I'm content that our last conversation consisted of joking over a handsome actor. It's a good memory.   

So I'm going to purchase the two Luke Evans movies we enjoyed the most. Whenever I watch them, I'll remember her hilarious commentary the nights we viewed them together. Just as I remember my mentor Deyan's voice in earnest prayer whenever I hold his favorite Buddhist beads. And how my honorary uncle told me my biological father had been a proud man too regretful to tell me how much I mattered to him. These fragile, immortal moments.

What immortal moments will you leave behind? 
Choose wisely.


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