I imagine hospice is a bit like blowing into your hands during a blizzard.
A small moment of warmth. A reprise until you let the whiteness consume you.
I’m not afraid of this whiteness. I’m not even afraid of the trying-to-stay-warm part. What keeps me up at night is the grief. Being on the other side of the hospital bed. Looking into the eyes of someone and knowing you can’t go with them. Seeing the snow pile up, and every time you try to give them something comforting, you realize you are a Russian doll, impossible to provide them with anything other than a smaller piece of you. You begin to use your outer shell as a shovel for all this snow. It doesn’t stop. The process of emptying yourself begins in someone else’s blizzard.
Is there anything lonelier than grief?
I wrestle with this question on the highway. I wrestle with this question when I eat my oatmeal in the morning. I wrestle with this question every time an old friend calls me unexpectedly. I wrestle, because I’m so scared of being stuck in the snowstorm alone. I’m so afraid of becoming just a hollow husk of me.
I read a story of a woman whose sister became an unexpected widow. This writer felt so much sorrow. She watched as her sister became a butterfly, but instead of spreading her wings, she withdrew to her cocoon. Does not grief rewind? Was that the intent of the emotion, to make us children again? Instead of evolving us, grief brings us to our knees, undeveloped.
I think a lot about the things that propel us and retract us.
Even so, it is hard to formulate what makes us still. Usually we aren’t quiet until we have no words left to say. I think of all my friends who have sat beside the hospital bed in the past year. I think of my friend’s friend who miscarried last week. Neither words nor silence can alleviate these griefs. When the heaviness of this reality sets in, I have the urge to send each person I know in pain a large jar full of butterflies, a subtle plea to defy the safety of the cocoon.
In the end, we all find our wings again. We emerge from mourning, and in this space I suppose we must look at grief, designed. Designed to remind us of the fragility of time here. We are all just made of paper, tiny things in the hands of a giant. We are changed, fearless, and we are fleeting. This is the delicacy which makes us miracles.
Understanding these ethics help me cope with my drifting thoughts. Still, sometime when I think about the ephemeralness of those around me, I begin to wear anxiety like a turtleneck. I prepare for a gale that is not yet on my horizon. But more and more, I am learning that loss does not make you less. And I hope that you can begin to tell yourself this on the highway, when you eat your oat meal in the morning, when an old friend calls. Loss does not make you less. Tell yourself this as you lace up your snow boots and put on your scarf. Loss does not make you less. Tell yourself this, because we were designed to press on, paper soldiers. Press on.