Grief dogs me through the city. At first it was sharp and yapping, close at my heels, always threatening to take a potentially-crippling nip at that exposed tendon. Now it’s merely a faithful companion, trotting along behind or beside, so familiar I can reach out and pat it, knowing the position of head or furry neck without looking.
Before, I didn’t know these breeds of grief with their different temperaments and varying demands. The aftermath of other deaths had taken a clear trajectory through shock, fatigue, and sudden tears, then gradually fading from stabbing pain and lack of control to sadness - to be conjured more at will than not - and, eventually, forgetfulness. This was the pattern for great-aunts, grandparents, friends, and cats.
The sharp teeth are gone now. I no longer wake with tears or find them welling when I think of her as living, and then remember. I am...going on, and realize that I can, and must. It’s hardest when I am sad for other reasons – when life has been wielding its unfairness or randomness – and I long for uncomplicated, unconditional love. No one will ever love me as much as she did, and she is no longer here. Facts.
That sort of loss is permanent and irreversible, so you swallow it and find – one day, sitting in a park or when a spray of red tulips startles you in a November florist’s window - that it lives, familiar, dark, and gently weeping, watering the seeds of your own ability to love, and keep on loving.
This is the final installment, for now, of this series.