When I was a freshman in high school, I knew a girl named Dana.
Well…to be clear…I knew of her. That is to say, I knew who she was…had been in classes with her since the sixth grade…and had always had a general awareness of who she was and what she was about.
She was about Forenza v-necked sweaters and big coiffed hair and iridescent lipstick and all of the things that added up to one seriously popular girl during the mid-1980′s.
Don’t jeer, friends. I had to live through that era trying to attain all of this as the end-all-be-all.
Anyway. Dana was always surrounded by friends and smiling and laughing, as the seriously popular are apt to do.
Until her father died midway through our freshman year in high school. At which point she was absent for the customary couple of days for the necessary arrangements. Though I didn’t know her well, I thought about her while she was gone. Was she seeing a counselor? In bed under the covers? Too distraught to eat, let alone attend school?
And then she returned. I watched her curiously from across the room in our shared biology class for a telltale sign of what she had endured.
And you know what I witnessed?
Yup. Two days after her return, I witnessed her tossing her permanent waved hair and laughing at something or other that her seriously popular friends had said.
And I judged her. Right then and there.
Clearly, this was no way to behave in the aftermath of the death of a close family member. Where was the respect? The honor? Didn’t she know anything about how to grieve properly? How to play the role of The Girl Whose Parent Had Died? She obviously had not watched enough tear-jerking After School Specials on ABC.
Because I was totally and completely an expert on the subject, right?
Time passed and fate twisted as it tends to do…and less than two years later, I was thrust into the role of The Girl Whose Parent Had Died.
After a not quite year-long battle with cancer, my mother died on a Thursday.
And what did I do on Friday?
I played in a varsity volleyball game. I will never forget the look on my teammates’ and coaches faces as I entered the gym that evening. It was quite certainly not unlike the look that I must have flung at Dana in biology class.
However, as I slammed volleyballs onto the opponents’ side of the court and hit the floor, arms outstretched, in an effort so save points, I felt some release.
Not healing…not instant wholeness…but release.
Just as Dana must have felt two years earlier as she laughed.
And now, 25 years later, I sit in front of my keyboard and allow these memories to fill my mind.
I feel indescribable thankfulness for the indoor beach party that I attended just over a week ago. Because my friend went back into the hospital for the last time the very next day.
And in writing about the goings-on of the past few weeks, I have felt some release. And I have witnessed others doing what they need to do in order to get by.
Gathering with friends to remember.
Providing home-cooked meals for our friend’s family.
Shopping trips with her teenagers to ensure that they will be properly outfitted for the services to come.
And yes…even some laughing.
Another’s grief, and the way they choose to get through it, is not mine to judge.
It’s something that each of us needs to do in our own way.
And you know what else? After posting this, I’ve decided that I want to step away for awhile.
To think…to reflect…to write…but not for an audience.
Those of you who have been with me awhile know that I have done this before.
I’ll let you know if and when I return…
And I trust that there will be no judgment.
Tell me…How do you do grief?