I have a book overdue at the library, but before returning it I decided to dip in a bit to see if I wanted to put it back on my hold list. Yesterday morning I picked it up and started reading, by the end of the day I had read all the way through. So Sorry for Your Loss by Dina Gachman turned out to be a great follow to my reading The Gravity of Joy by Angela Gorrell.
In So Sorry For Your Loss, Gachman traces her journey through the deep grief of losing her mother to colon cancer and her dearly loved sister to alcohol addiction and along the way she illustrates many of the points Angela Gorrell made in her book The Gravity of Joy. Gachman sprinkles humor throughout her telling and the book is easy to read with many good and useful takeaways as she integrates her stories with truths about grief.. I’m glad I kept it past due and I’ll return it tomorrow.
A couple trails that my brain latched onto as I read…..
In reflection after her mom’s death, Gachman says, “What is your life going to be like without the person who raised you? What does it mean that she’s gone – your touchstone, the one who, even as she drove you nuts, always made you feel most like yourself?”
There is a particular trail that Gachman is following here, but my mind branched off a couple different directions….
1. The memoir project I am working on with my dad right now. As he reflects on his life story and puts down the facts of his journey, he sometimes questions the way that something happened, the timing, the details….and so he reaches out by phone to ask his 86 year old brother, because in their family, they are the only two left who might know the answers.
And this makes me think of the podcast on grief, All There is with Anderson Cooper, which I binged listened through a couple weeks ago, and highly recommend. In the episode in which Cooper interviews Laurie Anderson they had an exchange that stuck with me. Laurie Anderson, speaking from her experience as a widow and in reference to Anderson’s loss of his mother (and father and brother), says ….when a loved one dies, part of you dies with that person. That little child dies. That little child your mother loved is dead. And so you go like, Whoa, where did that little boy go? No one remembers him that way anymore. So he dies.
And here, one of my recurring questions inserts itself: Who and What and How are we to each other?
2. Now, leaving that trail and hopping onto another one, I particularly liked the chapter “Chicken Soup, Gumbo, and a Bucket of KFC” because it told a story I know full well. In it Gachman describes the dish after dish of food that came to their door after her mother died. Providing food is an important and valuable way to support people in their grief and recovery work. After my car accident we were the grateful recipients of many meals, including a remarkable lot of freezer meals, to pull out later when the drama became routine and the outside attention faded away.
In this chapter Gachman tells a specific story about a neighbor lady who brought a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Gachman and her sister received that gift of chicken with deep gratitude, and she tells how the neighbor lady simply handed it to them with love and care and walked away, leaving them to themselves and the drumsticks. Gachman says of the ordinariness of the moment, “The joy was temporary, our grief annihilated for a brief moment, but it is something I will never forget, that permission to forget, if only for the time it took to eat a few drumsticks.
I have my own KFC moment embedded in the post car-accident food deliveries. I didn’t sleep much after the accident, between ptsd and brain injury it was incredibly hard for me to hold still and let myself fall into sleep. (Side note – I wanted my mom with me when I fell asleep and I wanted her to be there when I woke up. For awhile I was sleeping in about 30 – 45 minute chunks of time so that was quite an ask of my mother!) One of the things my family figured out to do with me during the night when I couldn’t settle to rest was take me out to the front yard where I would walk the perimeter of the lawn. Around and around I went. Around and around and around in my bare feet, that soft green grass anchoring me to earth. My husband and mother took turns sitting on the porch out there in the middle of the night, watching me walk. Waiting for me to wear down enough to go inside and lie down. Hoping I would cross the barrier into sleep and they could catch a break.
In early July, still just a couple weeks after the accident, this was the crazy that we were coping with. There was so much that was still unknown about the severity of my brain injury and the consequences. But one morning, after a night of circle walking, I had fallen asleep on the front room couch when the door bell woke me up. I heard my mom go to the door and greet my cousin, welcoming her in. As I eased my way into a sitting position (I had a lot of broken ribs), they came around the corner to find me. My cousin was carrying a box of blueberries, which she set on the table beside me. She and her sister had been out picking that morning and these were for us.
That box of blue fruit drilled straight through all the CRAZY spin in my brain and etched a glimpse of the ordinary deep inside me. In that moment, I was deeply grateful, And for that moment I have been deeply grateful, ever since.
Not to give the punchline away, but at the very end of this book, there is a dance floor.