Grief knocked again—or, more accurately, knocked me off my feet and left me wailing.
You’d think after writing about grief, I’d know to anticipate such a thing—or find an easier way through the aftermath of my sister’s death. But no, Grief was as tough as ever. And then, just as I regained my balance, my friend Katy was killed by a car.
What I have learned, even as I struggle to pull myself back into a semblance of carrying on, is that Grief-the-teacher always leaves a gift.
This time, it was a message about the ordinary.
Finding the creative in the quotidian
Too often, I behave like a martian-on-a-mission, wanting to “get through” certain tasks (vacuuming floors, folding laundry) so I can “get to” the creative work I want to do (writing and painting).
This time Grief suggested that I try to imagine the creative possibilities living in the most ordinary aspects of life. Maybe I could use them to build awareness—or as tiny moments of gratitude.
I told Grief I’d be willing to try—as long we could settle for very small gains.
My goal is not round-the-clock mindfulness but a few more moments of consciousness and appreciation as I unload the dishwasher.
Because if death were to take away that daily deed and the often boring, mundane tasks that make up my regular life—I’d miss them.
Wiping breadcrumbs off the counters. Cleaning toilets.
In a flash, the ordinary could disappear, as it did for my friend.
In her honor, I wrote this:
THE GIFT OF THE ORDINARY
If I came back from the dead to visit
You wouldn’t need to tidy
Or fret about the neatness of your living room
the number of spiderwebs
I’d feel the love living within its walls.
If I came back to your place to visit
You needn’t worry whether the glasses matched
or if their design was fashionable
Or whether you still used jam jars.
You’d never need to impress me
Which is to say, you never need to impress anyone.
(A lesson I wish I had learned sooner.)
And that stray teacup
Sitting on your desk for several weeks
Has a beautiful pattern left in the stains.
Your spiders enhance your house
with worlds of shimmering beauty.
I would want to stand with you
while you did the dishes
Imagining the soapy bubbles
and feel of lather
Running off your hands
Listening to the clatter—a symphony of sound
As you put the plates away.
We might take a walk together.
And while we couldn’t talk
I’d hope to hear the sounds of everyday
As cackling crows sort out their duties
Aspens chant in community,
And the wind announces a storm.
Perhaps we’d see the redtail hawks
Performing their ballets above the field.
I wouldn’t try to advise you
(Even if I could)
Your job being to trust yourself
And see the possibilities before you
In what you call mundane
The simple pleasures.
I have no regrets
The time for that is over.
But if I did, it would not be for pyramids I never saw
But for moments when I could have loved more
Or savored the ordinary before it was gone.