I have learned so much from my friend over the past week. The grace with which she has opened her heart and her home, the openness with which she has made it possible for her children, her family, and her friends, to share the fog of grief that has enveloped us all, has been an extraordinary thing to witness.
My own family tends to go for the austere, the stiff upper lip. My father, a deeply good and generous man, is without an intuitive sense for sharing the burden of loss; I am afraid that my beloved grandmother, who suffered much sorrow herself in her early life, passed on to him an almost unrivaled, in my experience, affinity for stoicism. He tends, although less so now, to go his solitary way. It did not, for instance, occur to him when my first stepmother died and his children and hers were the ages of the children I am observing this week, to ask any of us to participate in the planning or execution of the memorial events. I finally learned, when my last stepmother died a few years ago, that people have to simply barge their way in with him ~ not an easy thing to do under any circumstances.
Late last night I lay curled up on the couch against another friend as four of us, women who have been friends for twenty years, one of whom is now without the man whom she has adored for nearly twice that long, talked quietly in the family room. Memories, finances, funeral arrangements, future plans, the events of the past week, minor family hassles, food ~ I noted that there is enough food in her kitchen and garage for her to open a catering business Monday morning. Her daughter sat in the kitchen talking with two of her high school friends; her college son was outside with a high school hockey friend ~ one of an enormous crowd of young men who had dropped everything and come home to be with their buddy; her oldest son wandered through the house fielding phone calls for his mother and complaining occasionally that neither of his siblings was helping him with the pictures for the display at the funeral home. Every once in awhile the back door to the kitchen would open and more food would appear.
The next two days promise to be long and sad, but there is an unmistakable light around this family. It is the light of a love long shared and always rippling outward, a love that offers and invites generosity as though that were the easiest thing in the world to practice.