Today, I realize that grief comes like hiccups do, erupting in sudden, violent seizures of my soul, dying down, returning unexpectedly, dying down again, dying down...
After class today, I received a call from my mom, and within 30 seconds of answering the phone I could taste the excessive sweetness in her voice, masking a foreign flavor of earth and tears and patience and bile and concrete truth. She asked if I had friends around and then she told me that my aunt Jen passed away.
When introduced to Death by someone else, when you don't have to meet face to face, there exists an elastic moment, a suspended breath of uncertainty. And then, ten thousand pounds of grief fall up from your stomach, where they originate, coagulate, traveling to your heart. Tell me, what happens next? Where do you go from here?
Last Thursday morning, Jill called me up; Jen was in the background. They both missed me and wanted to say hello. I was entering dance class, but I said that I would love to talk soon. Before we hung up, Jill forwarded Jen's request that I make her another mix CD; she loved the first one. I've been in the process of gathering songs for Jen's CD, and the suspension of this project has become another lingering ghost. My roommate asked if I would still complete the CD. . . I just might.
I know that death is a part of life, that every end is also a beginning, but from time to time, waves of selfish sorrow crash beneath me and I lose my ground. I lose trust in my memory and long for a carbon copy of times my aunt and I spent together. I feel the world rotating and I run in the opposite direction, angered by the shocking normality of everything around me. After a while, though, I regain my footing and lift my heart. Jen chose a beautiful day to die.
I like to retrace my footsteps back to the summer past, when she and I grew even closer in Seattle. I worked early hours at the coffee shop, returning home exhausted, and I was always greeted with pure love. Jen would often ask me what I wanted for breakfast or lunch, a question to which the best answer was "surprise me," for she would cook up the most beautiful, delicious dishes. One day, the two of us took the bus to the main market and picked up some fruit before claiming a patch of grass next to the shore of the Puget Sound. We sat there in the sunshine for a while, reading, listening, watching, being.
I don't think many people understood Jen like I did, or if they really sensed how generous her heart was. She opened her arms to the world, she took in all the burdens, and it made her sad. I think that she must be relieved now. Whether in heaven or on another planet or in another body or simply suspended in a particle, surrounded by an amber nothing - I feel she's in a better place. Jen, I love you, and thank you for gifting the world with everything that is you.