“Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the kneeds and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.” – Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
This definition of grief from the first chapter of Joan Didion’s book (which I highly recommend to anyone mourning the death of a loved one) felt written for me the first time I read it. These “sudden apprehensions” come at the most unpredictable times, like arrows from the sky, and plunge straight through my gut, my heart.
A memory, an impulse to text my mom about some funny or sweet thing my kids said or did, the raw, sickening knowledge that she is really, really gone – that I will never see her, talk to her, touch her again – can (and has) brought me to my knees.
And yet for every hole scooped out of me by grief these past 27 days, a measure of love has been poured in its place.
“So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.” – Exodus 17: 10-13
In my grief, a swarm of people have emerged to be Moses, Aaron and Hur to me, lifting their hands up on my behalf.
Within 24 hours after my mom’s passing, I had over 100 text messages from people, offering sincere and heartfelt condolences.
I received multiple offers from people, asking if they could bring me meals. Within three days, not only were my family’s meals covered for the next two weeks, but several of my friends arranged for my dad to have dinners delivered to him, nearly five hundred miles away, in the week that followed my mom’s passing. (Never underestimate the powerful by-product of Remarkable Love and Astonishing Efficiency, united.)
When I returned from Flagstaff, four gorgeous floral arrangements awaited me, including one from a friend whose father died just two days before my mom. For a week, they kept coming – these fragile, fragrant blossoms – embodying warmth and kindness from their senders.
And the cards. The cards! Who knew that the “Sympathy Card” market was teeming with poetry and rich understanding? I have yet to read a single card that hasn’t cracked me open like an oozy egg. Sometimes I start to cry just seeing the return address on the envelope.
Every gesture, every consoling message whether it was sent in a card or shared via Facebook, text, email, every meal…every act of tenderness has been an anodyne; if not quite healing, at least soothing.
Somewhat mythically, as if in preparation for my impending loss, I received a Turkey on the Table just a few days before my mom passed away. After seeing one of my recent posts on Facebook, April George, one of the founders of Turkey on the Table, reached out to me about supporting Feeding America through a partnered post. I was honored to be asked and happily agreed, not yet knowing the role this little Turkey would play in my family’s life at a critical time.
Turkey on the Table is a book and activity families can to do together in an effort to foster gratitude and a culture of thankfulness over the holidays. April and her partner, Kerry, created Turkey on the Table in order to “help your family focus on all the good things in your life” while helping others, too. For each turkey purchased, Turkey on the Table provides ten meals to a family in need.
We opened our Turkey the night my dad arrived from Flagstaff to stay with us for the week leading up to my mom’s funeral. Each night, as we sat down for dinner, eating meals lovingly provided to us by friends, we took a few minutes to talk about things we were grateful for. We wrote them down on a paper feather and added each feather to the turkey throughout the week. Sometimes, we wouldn’t even wait until dinnertime to write down something we were grateful for. We had so many things we wanted to write down, we started doubling- and tripling-up on feathers, so that our blessings could be displayed and accounted for.
While our needs are not material, we took comfort from the beautiful irony that our Turkey is providing meals to families in need even as we receive meals as a family in need ourselves. Another measure of love poured into my grief-holes.
What better way for me to share some of the love being given to me so freely these past few weeks than to give away a Turkey on the Table to your family?
Thanks for reading and good luck!
I miss my mom. No matter how long we would go without talking or seeing each other, no matter how positive or negative those interactions may have been, no matter if we talked about the weather or something more meaningful, her presence – the mere fact of her – was an anchor and I am unmoored without her. I haven’t called her “mommy” since I was a little girl and yet my body moans the word.
Joan Didion says that “that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were, as we are no longer, as we will one day not be at all.” I feel fundamentally changed, even if I can’t quite articulate how.
But throughout this process, I have been wrapped up, held up by love and it has kept my heart soft and pliable. I am intensely grateful for that.