“Tripped Up By Grief”
I fell on my morning run. Stumbled over a stone buried on the path. Full body dive to dirt. Chest, knees, fingers stretched before me, all of me face down in the Bosque. Air forced out of my lungs, leaving with a loud, “ugh” as it escaped through my lips. And stunned, I rolled over on my back and wept. Not because of some traumatic injury or even physical pain, I was fine as far as I could tell; I wept because it had been only minutes since hearing that my friend of thirty years had died. I read the text from her daughter, typed back some flimsy message of condolence, and took off running. And I fell in exactly the way grief intends. tripped up. Breathless. Sore.
Sally was my agent, the Grand Champion of my books. She talked me up to strangers, made them want to read my little stories. She celebrated me like I was a birthday, all candles and light. The sweetest slice of cake you’ve ever had. She made me feel talented and what I had to say, meaningful. And she could deliver bad news with such graciousness, always a tear in her voice, always leaving me assured, without a doubt, that it hurt her as much as it did me.
More than all that though, Sally was my friend. And even as I often felt like we were from such different worlds, hers elegant and refined, all New York and Paris, and mine, slightly off-kilter, a wee bit disheveled, rural Carolina and brown barren desert, we shared with each other, deeply from our hearts. We knew practically everything about each other. And I will miss her.
I lay on the mourning path a while, my companion waiting patiently, a sentry at my side. And finally, I crawled to my knees, stood up, dusted myself off, and kept going. It seemed like the only thing I could do. As Kathleen Dean Moore wrote in her essay, “The Testimony of the Marsh,” discussing the meaning of life, reflecting upon the suicide of a student, considering what all of life is for, it is, she writes, “nothing, I think, except to continue.”
And so, that’s what I did. I joined my lively four year old black lab and kept going.
I don’t know where you are on your journey today. Maybe you too have just been tripped up by loss, a recent death or disappointment that has stolen your breath, left you face down in the dirt. Maybe you’re up and moving, slow but still facing forward. Maybe it’s an old grief locked up in your bones that leaves you limping like Jacob after wrestling with the angel all night. Or maybe, Praise God, all is well and the way stretches wide, and you, strong as wind, feel like you could go forever.
I don’t know; and the truth is we can be going along fine, and suddenly stumble over some half buried truth we never saw, the sorrow we hadn’t counted on, dropping us to our knees.
Regardless though of what is happening on your path today, I pray that you have the time and space to roll over on your back and weep if that is what is called for, strength and courage to rise up and start again, and that there are beloved companions standing guard when you fall and who walk beside you when you know it’s time to keep going. I pray you know that you never walk alone. And so, I pray, continue on, my friend. Continue on.
You are the light of the world!