I’ve had an awful lot of people pass in an out of my life through the Veils. In the 1980’s it was a lot of the gay men in my life including my best friend, Art. I’ve lost all my great aunts and uncles and my grandparents when I was a lot younger. When I was a kid babysitting it was a baby we babysat at church who was born with an incurable and identifiable disease. In the 2000s I lost my parents and my little brother. That one will never stop hurting. Two years ago we lost Laura Janesdaughter, our Heiromum to multiple myeloma. Now Mary is on that path.
I know you aren’t allegedly supposed to grieve before someone is gone but it’s very difficult not to and even more difficult when you are well aware of the process. Because what they don’t like to tell you is that grief is cumulative. Every death is another stone on your chest and a piece of your heart that is missing. Every death is painful and they lie when they tell you it fades, it doesn’t. It ebbs and it flows and can hit you hard when you aren’t anticipating it. It can be set off by the sound of a stranger’s laugh that sounds like your loved one. The scent of a perfume or flower or of a food you ate with them. It can come when singing a song that you used to sing with or for them. It can be watching someone walk down the street and the walk is like theirs.
I’ll be 61 in a month and a day. My first funeral was my great-grandmother’s when I was 5. I still remember her and I remember sitting with my grandmother while she made her handkerchief into a hopping rabbit while she kept us quiet with chocolate mint Lifesavers in the back of the car. My great-grandmother was 92 and I remember her heavy Swedish accent at the holiday dinner table but when she died I really didn’t understand what death meant. At 60 I’m well aware of what death means and the pain it can make a body endure.
Never let anyone tell you it gets easier. It does not. They are saying that because it hasn’t happened to them yet. When my brother died it took a year before I stopped bursting into tears every time I thought of him and it still reduces me to jelly if I get hit unwarned by something like someone wearing my brother’s cologne or a book we read together or a song we sang together. It’s been 10 years this July and sometimes it could be yesterday.
So this is a familiar if unwanted journey. I know it’s even harder for M and D. Someone you thought you would grow old with way into the future isn’t going to be there. The future is just not going to be what you thought. As a priestess of Hecate and a past on-call clergy with the AIDS Service Center gives me some framework but when someone is close to you, all you can do is hold a circle of love and the memories and hope it’s enough for all of you.