Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Good Grief (In honour of little Erin Moore)


A mountainside grievously rumbled, and killed a little girl. Young Erin Moore’s death since then has made yet more noise. It is a noise in our hearts. It is a noise in our minds. It is the noise of grief and disbelief and the ache of missing her and the sense of being astounded. And that this gifted and beautiful seven-year old, just before last Christmas, 2014, should so be taken is cause for the ongoing debate about the meaning of life, the will of God, the forces of nature, and the victims of circumstance, coincidence, and accident. We ache. How then, can grief be good?

“O welche Lust,” the prisoners sing, in German. (It is a sound in opera to evoke tears.) Fidelio, the disguised young girl, searches among them as they for the first time in years tentatively emerge from the dark, aching with sound, “Oh wondrous joy, oh what a joy!” It is a song that shivers the spine. To free the aggrieved out of darkness into the paths of enlightenment is tantamount to Plato’s famous analogy of the cave; we are but beings watching shadows on the inner wall, giving their artificial dance meanings, giving their play a power to suspend our disbelief. Until dumbfounded by the ploys we are not prepared to turn away. We fear the light. Yet being free, we are yet more appreciative for having had the contrast. However, in another opera, Puccini’s La Boheme, the protagonist, Mimi, comes onto the stage coughing, and she is doomed right from the beginning. Neither love nor hope nor even medicine can cure her. Without the music, how is watching such a sure demise ‘good grief’?

Our senses can soothe. If like me, you may grieve in very many stages, over very many years, decades even. No, it is not for lack of having had a ‘good grieve’ at the time of loss that I am so stricken. It is out of experiencing a never-ending love. Taking the loved-one from me does not take my love away; rather, I still feel in little smiles and heart-tugs and teardrops. Forty years or more separates me from some I have loved, and still I feel sad and sore, sometimes. None of it is debilitating. Rather, I choose to see it as loving, which to me does not end. Sometimes grief sneaks up on me by dint of a smell, or a sight, or a phrase, or a piece of music. And it is not just for the dead that I am in grief, but for those I love and do miss too. Surely this is a ‘good grief.’

Life is not fair. There is no equilibrium. Opportunity is different for most of us. Chance and accident and coincidence are not necessarily colluding; rather, they collide with us in the many pathways of their own momentum. We do not necessarily deserve their consequences. It is not our fault that we were in that plane, in that building, in that car, or on that mountain when other energies moved to hit, hurt, beat, and destroy us. Stuff happens. Illness and disease are not necessarily karmic, surely?  And in the wake of it we grieve the loss and the hurt and the betrayal. We grieve the love we cannot express to the one we've lost. And in that sense, our grief is good. It indeed shows us that we love. Imagine if we were cold, distant, disaffected.


Life is not a cartoon. Life does not end like the resolution of a novel, or a sit-com, or a movie. It goes, as you know, on and on. Until for you, personally, it ends. Until then one may indeed love the ones we miss. We may grieve at their image, at the sound of their favoured song. We might even go on the same mountain walk that so egregiously and untimely plucked the life from our loved one. And there we again may grieve. And our grieving, surely, is good. Or else so very much of life would indeed be dark and drear, deep as any cave, incarcerating as any prison. In grieving what we could have, might have had, we keep bringing love to light. And that, indeed, can be good.


2 comments:

  1. Life is not fair. There is no equilibrium. Opportunity is different for most of us. Chance and accident and coincidence are not necessarily colluding; rather, they collide with us in the many pathways of their own momentum. We do not necessarily deserve their consequences.

    This is SO helpful - far more helpful than religious platitudes that ascribe meaning to events as 'greater good' or 'god has a plan' or as one insensitive evangelical postulated - you suffered because god is punishing or wants to teach you a lesson. Stuff happens. And you capture that so eloquently.
    Thank you!

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  2. Thought provoking and moving, Richard. Your notion of "Taking the loved-one from me does not take my love away; rather, I still feel in little smiles and heart-tugs and teardrops" is helpful. I liken it to the contrast of grieving (or remembering) to treasure as opposed to grieving that results in immense sadness. If anything, grieving makes the love stronger, the memories more intense and the pleasure more real. At least, sometimes it does. Thank you for writing so movingly as we approach the one-year mark. Erin's Dad

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