I’m no stranger to death and grief, it comes with the territory of having a large family, but it’s never been a cross I’ve had to bear on my own.
At the passing of grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, distant relatives, friends, I’ve never sat alone in the quiet of my home for longer than a few moments.
There was gathering. In hospital waiting rooms. In funeral homes. In fellowship halls. But most prominently in my memory, my grandmother’s front yard.
We rocked in rockers, swung on porch swings, sat in camping chairs.
We’ve sent for takeout, we’ve eaten stress-baked sweets, we’ve basked in gratitude at the delivery of southern funeral casseroles and banana pudding.
We’ve shared laughter and tears. We’ve hugged and we’ve yelled. We’ve made up, and we’ve parted ways.
We’ve talked late into the night, gone home to bed, and came back first thing for coffee and donuts to do it all again.
We’ve borrowed black dresses and pantyhose. We’ve braided cousins’ hair and passed Kleenex and waterproof mascara.
We’ve been there to hold hands. To hug in silence when someone’s face said “it’s too much for me to bear on my own.”
We’ve handled the details. The hard parts. The paperwork.
We’ve put on the brave faces, the hospitable smiles.
We’ve taken off high heels and slipped into sweat pants, cozying up to the ones we love after the hardest days of our lives.
We’ve felt respite at the end of funerals and burials, the closure that signals a time for healing to begin.
We’ve been there to gather again, days, weeks, months later when the healing ceases and grief becomes too much again.
We’ve never done it on our own. And I’ll never again take for granted how my saddest days were made lighter by the souls who were surrounding me. As my family faces another season of sadness, I mourn a death both literal and figurative, knowing that our traditional porch sitting and the comfort of family are just another victim of the pandemic.