It was a summer morning like this, two years ago. The sun was just rising, the sky blue and flamingo pink, soft swirls glowing with that special back light only early sunrise brings sad eyes.
My mother had just passed away. It took me two days to get there, and I already felt guilty. In the movies, loved ones can always speed across thousands of miles in the nick of time. Real life is not so convenient. No matter; I had finally arrived. The sun beat down with oppressive glee, as I pulled my rental car into her driveway.
They were waiting; those watchers who had been with her in those last hours. Waiting for me with their pitiless eyes and judgmental smirks. They perched like gargoyles on the wooden bench, rustling their leathery wings in anticipation of the feast of grief to come.
We sat there, in a sort of fairy circle, while they took turns telling me of her fears, her slow gasping dance to death’s door. Their eyes glittered as they watched my face, soaking up every stray twitch of pain. But I was frozen. Frozen in sorrow and motion. I still had responsibilities; I still had my Job To Do. I had to protect her and do what she would have wanted, here in this strange place with alien people who seemed determined to chip away at me until I shattered into little pieces at their feet.
I slept on the sofa, unwilling to even enter the bedroom where she drifted away. I wasn’t afraid of spirits. I just didn’t feel welcome. I felt like the soul eater, required but despised.
The morning after I arrived, I was up before dawn. My mind churned around tasks to be done, people I must see and comfort. I struggled inside my frozen cage, only my mind alive with ache and anger. I sat on that wooden bench on the front porch, watching the sunrise and trying to feel something. Anything. My mind was trapped behind that glinting ice wall. I could hear the echoes of what I wanted to say, but the sounds bounced back on themselves, and the words would not stay in my mouth.
Two years have passed. The ice has very slowly melted. Drip, drip, drip the droplets of grief have trickled down my spine at odd moments, freezing me yet again. Mostly, they became absorbed by Mother Earth and daily life; noted but not powerful enough to stop my forward motion. But early morning hours, as dawn is breaking, I have closed my eyes and seen great chunks of the wall break off and plunge into my heart, stopping me and making me wonder: When will this end?
Grief passes when it is ready. We can’t hurry the process by sweeping it into dark corners and turning away. Sometimes, God is good, and we wake once more before dawn, to sit outside and watch the skies brighten. The memories come rushing back because the air smells the same, feels the same. And we find that forgiveness has come to our heart. We can finally say goodbye.