Love, loss, and art,
There are so many kinds of grief. The “I’m going to kick your ass because it’s your fault” grief, the “Oh my god, it’s all my fault” grief, the “how could you leave me?” grief, and the “I can’t breathe” grief.
As a 17 year old who just lost her father, I had an early introduction to Elizbeth Kugler Ross and the five stages of grief. Those imperfect lessons offered to me by emotionally intelligent adults continue to serve me well today. But each new loss brings its own surprise. Every commemoration of loss is a well of reflection. That is the space I enter every September 11.
There is nothing that can prepare you for the “here today, gone tomorrow” and forever quality of death. A train accident death, a nine-eleven death, a brain aneurysm in the bathroom death, a bee sting death, a gunshot death–nothing, just nothing. There’s just a hole in the universe, at the breakfast table, at work, when I pick up the phone to call you, when I need you, when I expect you to need me. A big basket of nothing.
As humans, that’s just something we can’t accept. Individually and collectively, we have created rituals, ceremonies, monuments to help remember and express our love. We need to venerate, to respect, to honor sacrifice, to demonstrate our humility in the face of the greatness of loss. We also do this to cling to our beliefs, especially when they are under attack.
In the process we write and rewrite our stories, turning them into songs of praise, songs of sorrow, monuments of marble, monuments of mud, portraits in oil, portraits in wheat. We create places where we can gather to express our unity and collective grief, to read names, to connect with nature, to look through stories in colored glass, to sing and allow our hearts to beat together, and our tears to stream without shame. Artists and holy people, sometimes the same, help us to orchestrate these moments
September 11 may have passed, but we continue to burn sage at the lamppost monuments tied up with teddy bears and balloons looking for healing and comfort and community. Let us continue to find solice, to find one another, and express our grief through the truth and beauty of art.
Be kind to yourself,