Grief


Yesterday was Gail’s funeral.

My wife has known Gail and her family for 30 years, maybe a bit more. Kristi and I have been married almost 21 years, and we lived in Gail’s neighborhood for about 13 years.

I don’t know how to grieve the loss of Gail.

I don’t think I completely grieved the loss of Billie Sue. She died a few years ago, and my family had known her and her son for about 30 years.

I don’t think I adequately grieved the loss of my grandfather.

I don’t think I fully grieved the loss of my grandmother.

I don’t think I entirely grieved the loss of my other grandmother.

Maybe I’ve done a better job accepting death, my own eventual death and the eventual deaths of others. Having really thought and wondered about death a lot, too much, I might have gotten to the point at which one sees all of life shot-through with this inevitable, time-bound tainting. That doesn’t lead me to think everything is futile or meaningless because the creative works and good deeds of a person can have an impact on the continuing, overlapping drama of birth and death.

More likely, however, I’ve realized that overwhelming emotions are a waste of time, and something that should be controlled. I have to guard against the derailment of my days. Am I in denial when I wittingly choose denial?

Two perspectives seem less like denial: The realization that Gail lives on in the blood of her children and grandchildren, and the realization that Gail is very much present in a uniquely human way that neither requires nor negates metaphysical and supernatural beliefs.

To put the second realization in other words, yesterday, when a full church remembered Gail, when everyone’s minds and hearts were focused on her and memories of her, she was almost present.

I don’t mean that like a psychological trick one might play on oneself. With so many people beholding Gail’s image, with so many people loving her individuality, with so many people knowing just what she would have said or done in a variety of circumstances, with so many people imprinted by her life, she almost lives on within the community of those who knew her.

I wonder if that’s what the New Testament really meant, when Jesus said, essentially, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am with them.”

If we gather in the name of, in the memory of, in the love of another person, something like a presence is present.

Gail is gone, an infuriating, heartbreaking truth. She’s not with us any more. Yet she nearly remains. We carry out the rest of our days with her imprint present in our lives.

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