I guessed it was about her mom. My image of her mother was like an unfinished puzzle. Perhaps it felt that way for Maria as well.
We wound our way to a small garden beside the library, and I heard a buzz in the air. Hummingbirds on high branches stirred to greet us, as if they were saying, “Have a seat. Don’t mind the cigarette butts.” We curled up on the worn wooden bench and felt it shift a little beneath us as our feet crunched down on the dried leaves.
Maria loves touch, yet her legs folded to her chest and leaned away from me against the armrest. I watched a coil of hair tumble down over her face, but she did not move it. I waited tentatively; she seemed somewhere else.
New pieces would come throughout the years, but not usually when I expected. Wouldn’t the loss be most potent on Mother’s Day? My mind searched for a significant date, but a few months buffered her mother’s birthday and the anniversary. It was just a Tuesday—completely mundane, I reasoned. Yet, grief does not serve reason.
“Hey… what’s really on your mind right now?” Beside me, the raincloud within her gave way.
She told me of the things her mother loved. Drinking coffee, home magazines and being a teacher. As a child, she scrunched her nose. As an adult, she understood. She longed to say, “Mom, let’s go get coffee.” “Mom, help me decide how to arrange my room.” “Mom, I love teaching too.”
The moment froze, turned to glass. I looked at my friend, made of pure, tender, jagged crystal. Allowing me the privilege of seeing all the way through her. Trusting me with the palpable fragility of the moment we shared.
Beside her, I learned that grief does not keep a calendar. It does not check a clock. It does not have a copy of our schedules, nor a list of our goals. It does not care how we want to be seen. It does not mind interrupting us. It does not wait for the ear of someone who is sure to understand.
I learned that grief… does not care how we want to be seen. It does not mind interrupting us.
Like a natural disaster, it comes. You grab a hand and brace yourself, knowing that, eventually, the torrents will sink back into the lull of the ocean, and you will carry on.
I sat lightly on my seat. What will I say? How will she read my face? How do I take what she is extending to me and hold it well?
My mind searched for answers, but she didn’t need one. My mind searched for a parallel, but she knew I couldn’t relate. My mind searched for a solution, but grief is not something to be solved. It is a force of nature to bear with tears and to marvel at as it shows us how deeply we have loved.
Grief is not something to be solved. It is a force of nature to bear with tears and to marvel at as it shows us how deeply we have loved.
I refrained from words, nodded softly and moved closer, letting her feel the warmth and weight of my body beside her. The tides ebbed, and we pondered aloud the way we grow to see our parents as real people. How we keep learning about them through new eyes, even when they’re not with us.
We sat together in the lapping currents. She leaned her head into my shoulder, and her hair spilled over us both. We watched the little ecosystem of life in the garden go on around us.
Have you ever walked with someone through grief? What was that process like?
Image via Hannah Lacy
This piece is an utterly beautiful exploration of friendship and sorrow. You are so talented and I want to read more of your writing!
Thank you for your kinds words Erik!