Letting It Be True
February 24, 2021
“That’s all anybody can do right now. Live. Hold out. Survive. I don’t know whether good times are coming back again. But I know that won’t matter if we don’t survive these times.”
You cannot run away from grief. Grief must be welcomed, honored, and sat in. We have to let the loss and the grief be true and decide to live within the acceptance of this truth.
For the last four years, I have been running from grief and even more recently I let the business of death displace the grieving process. Four years ago, this month, my Grandmother took her leave from this world and a little over six months ago at the end of July 2020 my mother unexpectedly left this world while on the way to an appointment in the car with my little sister. Mama’s birthday is March 1, this year will be the first one without her. Much like Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am certain it will be a sad and quiet day where my little sister and I do our best to get through the day without a total break down while trying to celebrate our Mama in only the way she could celebrate and would like to be celebrated.
I am writing this today because I am realizing the grief of these most significant and recent losses are overtaking me; I can no longer run fast enough or hard enough to allude the weight of the grieving process. I do not have a choice, but it to let it be true.
My two rocks, these two women who raised me and made me into the man I am today are gone. They are no longer physically present to offer their guidance, to shower me with their love, or to act as both anchor and compass. I am angry and have reached a depth of sadness that I have never known. These emotions are overflowing into my relationships with colleagues and friends. How can they not? This is the grief of a lifetime.
I do not think that one recovers from the loss of a mother—our first home. While deeply painful, our family watched my Grand fight Cancer for her life for over five years; we had time to prepare for her departure and steel ourselves for the impact of her absence. Mama, on the other hand, was totally unexpected. She left this world suddenly and without any warning. Not to mention, she was too young to go and still had too much she wanted to accomplish. My sister and I still need her. How do you cope with the sudden loss of the person, who tethered you to the world; who grew you?
I am living these questions. I am living out and within my own personal grief amid an era of overwhelming collective grief. Black and Brown human beings have been filmed dying in the streets at the hands of those who took an oath to “serve and protect;” over 500,000 human beings have died as a result of this country’s failure to put in place national standards of protection against COVID-19; and globally, the pandemic has ravaged entire city-states. I have woken up and silently screamed for well over a year. The weight of the grief—all of it—is too much to bear and yet, we must bear it. As Queen Mother Octavia Butler reminded us, “There is no end to what a living world will demand of you.”
I do not have any answers today. In fact, I am yearning for answers and a moment of just relief from this unflinching pain. Alice Walker wrote, “There is a point at which even grief feels absurd. And at this point, laughter gushes up to retrieve sanity.” I want to get to this point. It feels like it will never come for me personally and for the country collectively.
I realized this morning that I am simultaneously in the anger and depression stages of grief. I started new job at the beginning of the year, and I am certain my colleagues are thinking what is wrong with this guy. I would. I am noticing that my interactions are negative and angry; this is not who I am. I like people, I like new challenges, and seeking out opportunities for growth and transformation. However, right now it is all too much.
What can we do with this suffering? Is there anything that can be done? How can I harness the transformative power of this moment? Are these absurd questions? How can we cope with death—our only certainty as a human being? So many questions.
Today, I am just going to be still. I am going to breathe. I am going to remember with sunny tears. I am going to allow myself to feel it all. And I am going to celebrate. I am going to celebrate, in the words of Lucille Clifton, that every day something has tried to kill me and has failed.
Ancestors, ancient and newly added, give us strength to endure the remainder of this life without those we love physically present. Give us wisdom to know when to rise from the mourner’s bench and joy to see All in all things.
Be well. Be still. Trust in the Infinite. Remember our shared humanity. Be community. Be of good courage.