April 5, 2015

Life: Mourning and Celebration

Filed under: Memory Eternal — Tags: , , , , — Ann @ 11:06 am
The light is always there.

The light is always there.

After my father died on January 13th of this year, my mind began to process thoughts and images at an accelerated rate. Some mourners describe feelings of “blankness” or “going numb” but for me it was the opposite: thoughts and visual streams were spinning their grief triggers at maximum speed. At times I felt as though I were experiencing the clich├ęd death’s-door experience of seeing my entire life flash before my eyes: childhood memories were a constant slideshow…things my Dad said, did, things we said and did together, images of he and my Mom, the family, vacations, conversations…thumbnail reminders of his presence in my life. And, of course, all of that re-experiencing was accompanied by a sadness so heavy that I felt pinned to the earth by Jovian gravity.

But among those thoughts and images, others emerged as well: happy memories in the making. Weddings, picnics, barbecues, engagement parties, baby showers, reunions — and these images had nothing to do with my father or my family. Instead, I was imagining strangers together, smiling, laughing, drinking Champagne, raising glasses, opening gifts, celebrating. It was as though, in the midst of unbearable grief, my mind wanted me to remember that somewhere out there, far away from me but out there nonetheless, there was joy. I needed to remember joy. And to believe that I’d be in the midst of it again someday.

Last night I attended a community celebration of Passover. The room was packed, the music was loud, the wine was freely flowing, and I was surrounded by the dearly loved faces of friends old and new. As I sat taking it all in, I remembered. My mind formed a thought: “This is joy.” I greedily drank in every sensory aspect of the experience; I needed to memorize it in case I forgot it again.

This morning, I penned a thank-you note to the person who sponsored my attendance at the celebration. I ended by writing, “After my father died, I craved the other side of grief. Last night was that experience, and I’m filled with gratitude.”

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