Grief is the price we pay for love

No, that’s not me. It’s spooky how much I look like my grandmother.
Jump back two generations as if looking in a mirror 
echoes of your life reverberating in my own 
emotions tangled and unravelling, faced with loss 
memories that linger longer than lifetimes 
family history in my blood, my bones 
somehow knew. We are similar, you and I 
connected in ways unseen. In looking back 
I notice everything. I remember 
your home, the one most often visited. 
I could draw it from memory, every inch 
speaking volumes about you, your life 
brimming with details like the Noah’s Ark painting 
by the kitchen door, the cool black tiles on my toes 
as you busy yourself getting tea, digging out 
gluten-filled treats purchased for our visit and 
still we want to try your rice cakes. You let us, 
one each, why not, we want to be like grandma. 
You're sat on the flowery blue sofa, remote in hand 
scour the pages of the TV guide to see what’s on next 
a loud game of bagatelle going on in the other room, 
it must be almost lunchtime. 
I squeeze along to the far end of the table 
stare at your shelves, fascinated 
by your collections. Knowledge of all sorts 
cultivating my curiosity. Titles referencing 
Egypt or geology, the sideboard buried under 
piles of documents and letters 
an Open University certificate, paints, and 
mini cereal boxes waiting for breakfast. 
Coronation chicken, Tiffy II and pudding, 
pavlova, trifle, vanilla ice-cream worth 
the chill of opening the garage door 
I can almost feel it every time I go upstairs 
to the room we share when I stay. 
Dimmed lights, the sound of pages turning 
bedtime reading when small eyes can’t stay awake 
a love of words, bestowed by example. 
I watch you rise at dawn through half closed eyes 
the clink of a wardrobe door closing 
the swish of a long flowery skirt 
you urge me to go back to sleep so I roll over 
until the sun reaches in through the curtains. 
I look towards the garden 
blooming with colour, with flowers I cannot name 
the sound of water trickling in the pond 
bright orange goldfish circling 
under the watchful eye of a stone toad and mine. 
Meanwhile you tend to the greenhouse 
birds gather on the feeder and sing good morning 
cool summer air creeps past the backdoor 
while I balance, barefoot, on a wobbly patio tile 
run up the path to the summer house, sit on the wicker sofa 
specs of dust dancing in beams of sunlight 
a slight musty scent mixes with the warm woody air. 
Here I brush the cobwebs from the handle and hide from 
the outside world in one of my own creation 
watch the others through a cracked pane of glass 
until someone inevitably interrupts the buzz of bees 
shouting to come look at the butterflies. 
You show mum the newest buds 
as she does now with me in Spain 
and I wonder if I’ll ever develop green fingers. 
Right now, the only thing I can keep alive are memories 
moments shared, reminisced alone 
a treasure trove of adventure and nostalgia 
creating a gaping hole, like the one in the ceiling 
snippets of times gone by, stored in the loft or my brain. 
Unfolding steps, the sound of metal 
sliding on metal. We climb towards 
the dark in search of a switch 
hoping to shed more light than tears 
when down come boxes of memories. 
You don’t get the excitement but you are happy 
if we are smiling. We are, even today 
the kind of smile that remixes at every bittersweet recollection 
the kind that chuckles with fondness mid sob 
the kind that still laughs with a hint of sadness 
I see in me the woman I knew 
I see you now, as clear as ever 
emotions weave and mix together 
for grief is the price we pay for love. 

Death is a topic we don’t often talk about. We skirt around it in metaphors and euphemisms, we dress it up pretty and only ever speak about it in hushed tones. Yet it is the one thing we can be 100% sure about.

Since death comes to us all, every culture has a ritual for it. A protocol, a process, a set of actions that must take place. In Spain these happen the following day, in England several weeks can pass before anything is arranged.

These parting rituals allow those of us who remain to grieve.

When my grandmother died this summer, that grief turned into written words. It’s the one way I have of processing anything in my life, of making sense of what I’m feeling, of discovering my own thoughts.

Grief looks different for everyone. For me it was poems and Chrunchie bars and sharing good memories, three things that honour her and who she was.

We said goodbye remembering the good times, despite the tears it was beautiful.

Though sadness lingers it does get lighter eventually, we each take the time we need and there is no hurry at all. Perhaps there is no forgetting but remembering is a little less painful each day. Death also speaks of life.

Our turn will one day come, so for those who remain there is always this question: How do we want to be remembered?

That is the way we should live.


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