“Don’t you worry. All things must end. There are sunlit uplands around the river bend.” Frank Turner, “Glorious You”
“There is light, but there’s a tunnel to crawl through. There is love, but it’s misery loves you. We’ve still got hope, so I think we’ll be fine in these disastrous times, disastrous times.” Frightened Rabbit, “The Oil Slick”
I have always turned to music as a means of coping. The music, lyrics and tone take me on a journey, each time, through the darkness and lead me to the light on the other side. These days, I catch myself singing along, only to get caught stuck on the ending.
As I enter my fourth month since my whole life changed, the peaks and valleys still exist, but the rest had settled into a dull overall depression. At first, I would keep forgetting and then get tossed back into reality. I still do, but less so now. The lyrics that brought me through challenges in the past didn’t prepare me for this.
Getting to the end, I stop and realize that the end of my struggles will not bring sunlit uplands after all. No new beginnings. No shining moment where I can reap the lessons learned and embrace the rest of my life with a brand new vigor. These lyrics have failed me.
What’s left, of course, is sucking the marrow out of the life that is left. I know that. I understand that. But first I have to make room for grieving everything that I’ve lost.
Today, I grieve driving lessons, first loves, and high school accomplishments.
Today, I grieve seeing my children become adults. Seeing them come of age and find their way in the world. I grieve seeing them leave for college and choosing careers.
Today, I grieve seeing them become parents themselves, and getting to know my grandchildren.
Today, I grieve growing old with my husband. I grieve being able to talk about and imagine our life after raising children. There is no longer talk about a lake house. Or where we might like to travel, or of how we want to spend our retired life together. I grieve for his loss as much as I grieve for mine.
I bawl at the sight of an old couple holding hands. I sigh at the sound of a co-worker counting days until retirement. I never imagined that these things would not be for me.
I picture the life that will go on after I’ve left it, and feel only deep sorrow for having to leave. I have to start thinking about how I want to die. And should I be cremated? And what to do with my ashes? How do I want to be remembered? But all I can think of is, “I don’t WANT to leave. I just want to be near you.”
I cannot see a beauty in leaving my family before I am ready. I don’t think I ever will. This is not a part of great plan. It is merely a showcase of the arbitrary nature of the human life.
I have listened to songs and stories in the past that deal with death, and have found beauty in many of them in the abstract. Real death, right in front of me, at least for the time being, has stolen their beauty. Ten years ago, I might have whimsically mused at playing Death Cab’s “I will follow you into the dark” at my funeral:
Love of mine, someday you will die
But I’ll be close behind and I’ll follow you into the dark
No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight, waiting for the hint of a sparkIf heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied
And illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you into the dark
These days I can’t even listen to it. I’d always pictured two old people saying goodbye after a life together. I never pictured leaving this way.
Then there’s Bright Eyes’ “Easy, Lucky, Free”:
I always figured there’d be time enough
I never let it get me down
But I can’t help it now
Looking for faces in the clouds
I’ve got some friends I barely see
But we’re all planning to meet
We’ll lay in bags as dead as leaves
All together for eternity
But don’t you weep
(Don’t you weep for us)
Don’t you weep
(Don’t you weep)
There is nothing as lucky
This one feels slightly less empty, at least in it’s emphasis that there is no longer pain; or a struggle after we’ve left. But lucky, easy, free? Nope! I’m not there yet.
Of course, I know that there is still possibly hope. It might even just take one scan that goes in the right direction for once, instead of taking a turn for the worse. The problem is that I just haven’t had any of those yet, and it’s left me seeing more of the darkness lately than the light.
I know that the sunlit uplands could still be in those yet to be seen positive scans. In those moments of reprieve. Long-term dreams have abandoned me, but the days and the moments haven’t yet.
As much as grief is a process that I must go through, I hope that it’s purpose can bring me closer to something resembling acceptance.
And that I don’t forget to enjoy every reprieve, every hope, and every moment of joy that comes along the way.
I can see that on the horizon, and catch fleeting moments of the feeling on the breeze. But today? I have to grieve.