My 81 year old sister Gail died in her sleep on October 10th. She felt well and was happy. She was not afraid of death and if she could remember her death, she would not be surprised; just pissed off because she did not have a chance to vote.

She left two children and three grandchildren who are deeply grieving her loss as am I.

Grief is one of our greatest teachers. It cracks us open—that’s how the light gets in. It demands that we look at our relationship with life and our fear of death. It reveals the great healing power of love. Ram Dass

Gail and I had a great relationship and due to recent conversations with her, I have a sense of completion. I miss her and find it so strange that she is gone. We were the witness to each other’s life. I expected to die before she did. I can hear her saying “Hah, you thought I was going to grieve you; so there”

I am now the last of my generation except for a very distant cousin. My twin brother died when we were 35, the same year as my mother. It is a strange feeling being the last one. It is lonely. There are only a couple of people, lifelong friends who knew my father or brother.

I think about my family’s previous generation who of course have all gone. I remember seeing a picture of a stadium with 20,000 baseball fans in 1890 and it struck me, “My God, they’re all dead”. 20,000 ordinary people, not unlike you and me, who no longer cast a shadow with no real artifacts to speak of that reveal they ever existed. This certainly gives one perspective on the human condition and how we are all on death row. And yet I do believe that we are living in our ancestors wake as we create our own wake for the future, whether it be good or bad.

Even with this perspective, we grieve. And, it is hard. Having lost a 19 year old son who would have been 48 this year, I know.  The wound of loss can be searingly deep and yet it will heal just as the body heals a physical wound. Grief is not an event; it is a natural process that takes time and it is unique for each person.

So, I grieve for Gail and yet I have a quiet peacefulness. She led a good life and was loved.

I’m the last leaf on the tree.

The autumn took the rest, but they won’t take me. . . .

I’ll be here through eternity

If you want to know how long

If they cut down this tree, I’ll show up in a song.


3 thoughts on “GRIEF”

  1. I’ve waited some time to read Bruce’s reflection on grief. I knew it was too important to read quickly and close. I knew I wanted some minutes to respond to his reflection. Finally, the time was right and I’m glad I waited.
    Curiously, my first thought fell upon the grieving I have begun for the last of my Dad’s siblings even though at age 89 he is still alive. There are ominous signs that he will pass soon, not the least of which is his increasing willingness to do so. I understand his disgust with diminishing physicality. Who am I to wish that discomfort on someone? I want him to always be available to answer my call – I can’t count all the topics that he alone can converse with me. That our shared memories are increasingly divergent in recalled details doesn’t matter a whit. I’m starting to miss him already.
    My second thought is a curiosity. There are other passages in life that are worthy of exploratory conversation – puberty, leaving the nest, empty nest, interactive sexuality all come to mind – that are idiosyncratic, i.e., uniquely experienced, and are bandied about among friends, mentors and family. Each person’s learning about a new aspect of being alive happens unevenly, awkwardly, humorously, painfully but with an innate understanding that it is a passage all traverse. Grieving doesn’t have the collaborative learning benefit, unfortunately. In our culture, it is endured more privately and less candidly. Except for the brave among us, like Bruce, we in this culture tend to take grieving as a solo enterprise. Why, escapes me even as I perpetuate the custom.
    I am grieving. Not just for dear ones who have passed away. A way of life, the good aspects of which will never be again. Widespread use of manners comes to mind. Hitchhiking is another. I continue to be sentimental about college athletic teams whose colors, songs and conquests stir my passion as if there was no money in the equation whatsoever. I worked in camps where we taught youngsters to be a part of the woods as it was rather than adapting it to suit our comfort. Sam Ervin of Watergate fame no longer is with us, but will his equivalent be found if the Mueller investigation calls for him or her? I just learned that Atticus Finch is coming to Broadway soon. Will the 2018 Atticus provide the same salve for our culture’s aching racism that he did when the novel soothed our souls?
    I grieve and thank Bruce for encouraging the collaboration.


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