Sunday, February 12, 2023

Leaves of grief

Grief is a funny thing. It can reach out and grab you by the throat from years in the past. Tom has been gone almost 36 years. I have grieved for him. I have found great joy in Math Man and our two sons. Yet somehow the joy and the grief are interleaved with each other, flying past each other like the pages of a book ruffled in the wind. 

Our beloved cat Fluffy died on Friday. She went to sleep on Thursday and simply didn't wake up. The end was swift but gentle, but it remains hard to lose a companion of almost 17 years. Math Man and I cried our tears for her, and did the last necessary things. We will bury her ashes under the cherry tree that she loved to climb,to harass the squirrels and find her way to the window outside my study, demanding I remove the screen and let her in. Terrifying the neighbors as she balanced on the roof, but never once falling. 

I came home from teaching on Friday afternoon and was faced with her food bowl sitting in the kitchen. I emptied her bowls and put them in the dishwasher, and started to clear away the little pieces of her life scattered around the house, washing the bedding in the basket she sometimes occupied in the kitchen and picking up the toys she batted under the sofa. And as I did so the grief and the anger I felt when I came back from the hospital after Tom died came flooding back. I had gone around the house that Good Friday afternoon doing the same thing, throwing away the razor he would not need ever again, washing the bedding and remaking the bed for a single occupant. Suddenly that grief was all fresh again, and I could hardly speak for the tears.

In a moment of clarity, I remembered the advice of a long-ago spiritual director on this kind of grief. Think of it like the Amtrak train howling through the station, he suggested. It comes on fast, it's noisy and rattles you, it's frankly terrifying. But it will pass, and generally quickly. And it did. But I still miss Fluffy...and Tom. 

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