I’m not sure where to start.
Words are my solace. My emotions spill out in black and white type, and through fingers flying over a keyboard. I picture the inside of my soul as one big jumble of squiggly black letters, just waiting to be released. Thoughts are formed, sentences are strung together, brilliant and inspired thoughts are born… only to be caught because....
I never know where to begin.
I can’t seem to find the release button, and so the words stay churning, and the hurts keep burning. I can't give voice to my emotions. Writing gives me the freedom of release- of revising and sorting through the jumble of letters and extracting exactly what I want to say. But when it comes to tragedy- the time when I need the strength of words the most, I flounder at the beginning. I can't sort it out because there’s no beginning, and what’s worse is that there’s no ending, because grief is that nasty circle that just keeps spinning. Somehow putting the catalyst of the breaking of a heart into a simple sentence seems so... so mockingly…. normal. There should be better words. There should be an easier way to begin. And there isn't.
My friend Maria died this weekend. And the news came on the heels of a weekend visit to Pennsylvania to attend the memorial service of a friend who passed away from cancer two weeks ago. Two lives, two deaths. One older, one younger. One expected, the other a tragic shock that I still can’t comprehend. Is one worse? Is one loss easier to deal with than the other? The answer is no. There is nothing in death that is easy to deal with. The answer is no, but with a caveat. The answer is no, but one is easier to accept, as callous as that may sound.
I liked Charlie a great deal. He was a good man- with a kind heart and a laugh that I can still hear in my head. His presence will be missed. Cancer robbed us of a good man- but also a man who had lived a long 75 years. Death hurts, but there is a slight consolation in the knowing that he is free from suffering. And these thoughts alone break my heart. These thoughts break my heart in the realization that because I’ve been touched by so many deaths of friends and family I can now measure it by the degrees of acceptance. My heart is calloused, and I don’t like it.
But Maria? My mind refuses to accept her death. I saw her four months ago. She celebrated a birthday three days ago. She told me via facebook that the next time we got together she wanted to be on the other end of the photos of my cooking experiments. I told her that hopefully once I have my house, she’d even get a place to stay out of the deal. Plans that will now never be. A friend whose beautiful smile and gentle encouragements are lost forever. How does a seemingly healthy woman in her early forties have a heart attack?
I’m mad. No, I take that back. I’m furious. I’m pissed off and ready to thoroughly throttle the first person that dares to look at me cross-eyed. I want to crawl into a room and stay there forever and stop having friends because it hurts too damn much when they leave me.
I wrote a poem once that contained the line; “even the most broken of hearts is never beyond what God can mend”. I used to believe that wholeheartedly. It’s what I clung to when I thought my heart was shattered. Now, I’m not so sure. I think the heart has limits, and I’m reaching mine.
I know that grief has cycles. And I know that life moves on. My heart will hurt and break and mend, my life will go on, and that the days will come when the thought of Maria will bring a bittersweet sigh. I’ll tell stories with a smile, and the stitches of the broken hole in my heart with her name on it will fade to a dull ache instead of the piercing pangs of the present.
But instead of bringing comfort, that thought brings tears. I’m tired of becoming used to moving on. I’m tired of accepting death after death. I don’t want to resign myself to passing through the grief process and knowing that I am going to make it through, that I will smile and laugh and joke and move on with my life. Instead, the five year old me is wailing and stomping her feet, and she is demanding that the world simply stop and wait for her broken heart to mend. To her, life simply isn’t fair. She wants answers and is refusing to listen to the voice of Time and Reason.
I start to count the people I’ve loved and lost and somehow the ratios don’t seem to balance out. I’ve said goodbye to too many people in my 28 years. In my grief-tainted thoughts, it’s more than my fair share.
And I don’t understand.
Yes, this post is all about me. I wanted to write about Maria- I wanted to give her a tribute fitting for a dearly loved friend. Maybe in a few days I can write about her, and the friend that she was, the friend that she will always be, and the many, many ways she touched my life and my heart. Those words are there. They’re forming in the depths of my soul, even though I’m doing my best to not acknowledge them because I’m wounded and hurt and not in the frame of mind to let them be. They will form and break through and maybe even bring healing. But for now, for today, the only thing that my heart can hold is the knowing that it has been stretched to just about it’s breaking point. That the constant mending and breaking is wearing thin, the seams are fragile, and that it’s liable to shatter into a million pieces.
The soul’s still aching, the world keeps breaking. And the words keep churning, and the heart's still burning with a sorrow that has no words.