Thursday, January 15, 2009


what does one wear to a funeral for a two-year-old child?
I realize the answer to this question is really irrelevant, but it was what flitted through my mind as I stood in front of my open closet this morning.
black, so somber, so serious, so mournful. something bright: too celebratory, better for someone who has been released from pain or suffering. I want to acknowledge the terrible loss and the devastation, yet I don't want to be an apparition of deep anguish and finality. perhaps gray. perhaps brown. or perhaps pink, this child's favorite color, the color the parents are encouraging us to wear today, which I would want to wear if I owned any.
so I don't yet know.

what strikes me this morning is the dichotomy between those of us who are celebrating our lives, and those who are deeply mired in sorrow and loss. yesterday I was riding my bike, engaged with and joyful about life and the richness of my experience, while this two-year-old's parents were probably stumbling through their day, numbed with shock and disbelief. at any given moment, the people in my neighborhood are probably in every different emotional state available: from joy-filled to distraught and everything in between.
I did not know this little girl, but I know her parents and siblings, all of them beautiful humans fully engaged with life. their mom, the kind of mom I wish I had it in me to be: a mom first and always, completely given to the nurturing of her children. dad, a proud papa kind of guy, probably stunned by the amazing brood he created and sustains. three sisters, one brother, all sharp with energy and determination.
I ache for them all.

I have walked the path of being mired in sorrow and loss. I lived there longer than I care to think about. I was one of the walking wounded, the shocked and ruptured, the unbelieving. I moved through a world full of people who were joyful and engaged and vibrantly alive, and felt so alien as to be from not just another country, but another world. I functioned, but I lived with a hole inside so large that I often expected it to swallow me. at times I did wish to be swallowed whole.

at any given moment millions of us are suffering, millions of us are floating on cloud number 9, and millions of us are at those myriad points in between, watching our joy slowly diminish or our pain begin to slip away or just hovering in a peaceful place.
perhaps the greatest gift we can give each other is to recognize that anyone of us may be at any emotional point at any time, to empathize with the difficulty of many of these states, and to somehow let others know---via the squeeze of a hand, a genuine smile, a hug, a note---that you acknowledge their pain.
and to know that if they cannot accept this, that's okay as well, for pain, sorrow and devastation are taxing bedfellows. sometimes the only thing that saves us is time. a great deal of time.
and that is the gift we give to others when we care for them.

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