“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
― Robert Frost
Life should be forced to mirror our own grieving hearts. When we’re aching from loss, no birds should be allowed to sing and the sun should be banned from the sky. Happy songs should be muted and laughing children, shushed. Flower petals should crumple and playful kittens should lie down and sleep. It’s how we feel when a loved one dies.
On a bright August day, at the height of the flowers’ blooming, we held my grandmother’s funeral. Inside the hall, it was easy to forget that life continues. The interior was sad, like the mourners, and there were few windows to let in the sun. It was on that slow walk down the aisle and into the day that the summer weather began to offend me with its cheerfulness. Even the snails-pace drive out to the cemetery for the interment felt far too light, far too airy, and far too sunny. Not quite like we were headed to the lake for a picnic, but close.
At the prairie gravesite, life hummed all around us. The grasshoppers leapt and nibbled and scissored their legs in chorus, “Life goes on, life goes on…” I wanted to step on them. The sparrows in the tall, tall trees twittered and fluttered as they searched for sustenance. I hated them as much as I hated the grasshoppers.
There were quite a number of babies around, too: great grandchildren too small to talk, and yet proclaiming loudly enough, “I’m young, I’m alive, I’m adorable! Be joyful!” I didn’t hate those babies, and I didn’t want to step on them, but I recall less-than-appreciating their fresh presence.
Then, in an instant, I saw the life surrounding me and the other mourners as my dearly-departed might have. Grandma loved birds and babies and wanted to step on grasshoppers. She had loved everyone in that hall and all those who recited the twenty-third Psalm at her graveside. This sunny, August day was for her, after all, and it was perfect. Except for her absence.
Of course, I’m lying a little bit here in this preceding paragraph. It took a while for me to forgive the weather its rudeness, to forgive the birds their singing, and the babies their being. It didn’t really happen the day of her funeral or even for weeks after. But it did eventually happen that I began to see that life does go on, and that my grandma would love for me to enjoy life for as long as I walk the earth.
Today, though, I’m thinking of you who have recently lost someone dear. I wish for you that soon the sun and the birds will bring comfort, that babies will gurgle and coo and bring joy, and that you’ll have many opportunities, if wanted, to step on grasshoppers. I wish for you that life, with all its sorrows and sweetness, will go on.