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Grief is not a constant thing.

Grief is the unwanted houseguest, the itinerant acquaintance who shows up without notice or invitation, steamer trunk standing behind him as he smiles, his obvious intention: to settle in for an extended stay.

When he arrives, I cannot send him away, much as I want to. He is here, and he will stay. So I make up the bed in the spare room, put out fresh linens, and prepare myself to meet daily the constant sadness that has taken up residence in my home.

But it is not constant, this sadness, this Grief.

In the mornings, Grief, still in his dressing gown of paisleyed silk, shuffles into the room, inclines his head discreetly in my direction, moves to an unoccupied chair, and unfolds the day’s newspaper, sipping creamed coffee as he reads.

In the afternoons, Grief wanders the house, inspecting artwork, photographs, the spines of books, the memorabilia of my life. If the weather is fine, he might venture out for a turn in the garden or to sun himself on the porch.

In the evenings, Grief may enjoy a cognac and a pipe near the hearth, or take a book and a glass of port over to the chair beneath the reading lamp.

Grief is like this much of the time. Quiet, unobtrusive, there are spans when I almost forget that he is there, when life seems normal, but then the rustle of his broadsheet or the sandy whisper of a turned page reminds me: Grief still haunts these rooms.

But Grief is not always so reserved.

On occasion, Grief will clear his throat, breaking the silence between us. The paper will fold, the book’s page will be marked, the teacup will clink home in its saucer, and Grief will turn and look at me with an intensity that demands my attention.

“Remember when . . . ?” he might start, or “I wonder why . . .” he’ll begin, and to that he will attach an anecdote about the one who has passed, the death that brought him to my doorstep. The memory he relates might be a happy one, albeit scorched by loss, or it might be of an angry moment that I would rather forget. It might even be a hidden truth, now unveiled, that reveals unknown realities that add confusion to my pain. Insistent, Grief relates these thoughts to me, whether I want to hear them or not, and in so doing, he brings into razor-edged focus the unhealed wound, the lacuna that can never be repaired.

Grief acknowledges the pain he causes. He furrows his brow and nods as if in sympathy, but ultimately he is unaffected by my anguish, unmoved by my feelings. Day or night, at random moments, consistently inconstant, Grief interrupts my thoughts, my work, my dreams, with reminders of loss and recollections of a life extinguished.

But Grief has visited here before.

As with previous visits, I know that, in time, Grief will begin to leave me alone. His strolls out on the grounds will lengthen. He will take meals in his room. He may even enjoy the occasional trip to the countryside.

As the days and weeks that form the months pass by, the timbre of his recollections will change as well, softening as the seasons dilute and cleanse our discourse of its harsher notes, leaving me with memories that are infused with less pain and greater fondness.

Eventually, Grief will find a place of his own and move out, perhaps across town. He will continue to pop in for a quick visit, around a birthday or the holidays, and we will chat and reminisce and raise a glass to the loved one I lost.

And thus we will continue, Grief and I, until I myself am at an end, when Grief will pack up his steamer trunk and take memories of me to someone new.

. . .

 

 

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224 Words

224 words 
are not enough 
to hold your complexity 
to describe your life 
to tell your story 

224 words 
discretely categorized 
these on education and profession 
those on the passions that fired your mind 
cannot suffice 

I could write novels 
stories and essays
odes and sonnets 
vignettes and epigrams 
and still not compass 
all you were 
to me 
to any of us 

224 words 
cannot scratch the surface 
of the sadness and pain 
that in the end 
consumed you but 

224 words
are all that fit 
into the columned inches 
to tell the world 
you are gone 

 

. . .

 

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