Day 95: Grief is Praise...
...says Martin Prechtel. I want to say that I knew this to be true, but it took this past weekend to give me a visceral sense of what he’s talking about.
The grief I experienced most fully at my Uncle Karl’s memorial service did not have to do with him, particularly, though his passing instigated it. I lost this beloved uncle on Easter morning. He was a cantankerous soul, persistent for justice or angry about injustice, both. He was beloved all the same. The first of the four brothers to make his transition. The one who has now signaled the generational transition is upon us. So I’ve pondered a fair amount about my grief here, particularly as I never felt very close to Karl. What IS the overwhelming sadness I feel? I mostly felt wary around him, unless in one of his fabulous bear hugs.
I had an encounter with a family member before the memorial service—an aunt—that set off a cascade of fear, edginess, perhaps a bit of anticipatory anger. I was in its thrall for a good two days, at least until Saturday night when I could address it directly with both uncle and aunt. I got to sit down with the uncle I’d wanted to connect with, and unexpectedly but irrepressibly, a wave of praise poured out of me. Grief is praise, I found myself remembering…
Simply put? The grief that had me for two days was a visceral belly fear that I would never get to hug my Uncle John again. His wife, my aunt, has a serious immune-vulnerability, so none of us—including his daughter—has been welcome to draw close. My mind gets all that, but my bodysoul and heart felt this overwhelming sadness rise up, tears in my throat. I tried to let some steam off by honoring my cousin’s ability to hold this tension with such equanimity. If I didn’t get to hug my own father because of my stepmother’s choices? I’d not handle it nearly as well as she seemed to be. Honoring that did not take mine away, however.
Finally, Saturday night, way seemed to open to ask my Uncle John for a little sitting-time. “I have nothing to say, really,” I said to him sheepishly. “I just really wanted to spend some time with you.” He smiled, laughed a little. We listened together into his own relationship with Karl, his sense of family connection (or not).
And then came a whole wave of words, praise of him, his impact on my life, his wisdom, his capacity to see me, to see people… I emoted for several paragraphs, actually, all over him. “I guess I did have things I needed to say,” I concluded, sheepishly.
Grief is praise. “It is the natural way love honors what it misses.” And I have missed my uncle John. Time to make the most of the times we have left, methinks. I’m not remotely ready for any of them to go.