On grief

April 12, 2017

Essay, Writing

Because of my finances, I haven’t traveled with the kids as much as I’d have liked to. As a child, I grew up traveling quite a bit and know the deep value in understanding that the world is both bigger than you think, but at the same time, also smaller –

The last time we were at the beach all together, we were with my mother. Andrew was a toddler, and we’d gone to Emerald Isle. I have some pictures somewhere I’ll try to find. A few years ago, there was the overnight, emergency, much-needed sanity-seeking beach trip here to Topsail – a getaway to just anywhere – so Katie, Andrew, and I decided to come down and look for megaladon teeth, since it had been reported that year that the locals were finding them. J. was living full time with his father that year. Later, there was the two-night at Ocracoke Spring Break with Katie and Jack. (A. on Spring Break with beloved friends.) J. literally laid down in the sand as soon as we reached the beach that first day and didn’t move, didn’t venture down to where Katie and I laid our towels, or swim, or look for shells.

Part of the reason we are here this year is that at some point, I have to disperse my mother’s ashes, but I don’t exactly have a plan. I am old enough now that I am not afraid of a mess, of getting my hands dirty, of doing the work – but if I’m honest, I know that this deep sense of dread I am carrying has to do with fear.

Maybe it has to do with dealing with the macabre, the death and skin of her, the ash of her, the small bones, the unknown. This part of death I haven’t handled before. The soil of her, the loam of my mother from whom I sprang. It is said we begin as dust and that is where we end, and here I am with her dust …

And maybe it also the finality, that I am letting her go along with all the questions, all the answers I’ll never have. She died and we didn’t really know each other, and won’t — all her secrets and truths she so tamped down in her life will now be sent back into the wind.

At least the wind is constant.

My muscles ache from walking on the sand, the good ache, the necessary one. But I am heartweary from worrying about my beloveds, from carrying loss with me, and the fears of losing more, from how harsh this world can be –

And yet so filled with beauty at the same time. I watched the moonrise last night over the ocean – a deep orange lifting right out of the water and fooling us, behind black ropes of clouds –at first we weren’t sure what it was but supposed it some kind of ship with orange lights, til it grew brighter and brighter and then leapt from the black water, still in her veils, but finally J. asked, “Is that the moon?”

And it was, and it cleared the ocean, the black wisps across her face dissipating while she came more clearly into view.

I always forget and then remember how the moon pulls the tide back like a curtain and lays the wet sand bare, and I think of how tender our hearts, how we are made vulnerable by grief, how if we strip back the anger, the fears, the petty resentments, we uncover the truths: we are all made to love and to hurt, that we all hold desires, hopes, and dreams for ourselves and for those we love – and the wet sand is waiting for those moments when all the walls and devices we use to protect ourselves are dissolved, pulled back. Waiting for answers, maybe, and waiting perhaps for us to dare to love each other again, for us to let go of losses and fears and be pulled right along with her into what is beautiful: a soft night, the roar of ocean, a sky speckled with stars.

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About Melissa Hassard

"I am always doing things I can't do. That's how I get to do them." -- Pablo Picasso

View all posts by Melissa Hassard

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