Grief is real!
I first encountered grief when my grandfather died. I got to hang out with him over school holidays and he spoilt me rotten; like good grandfathers are supposed to do. He had a certain authority over my life that I cannot explain. From my pronunciation to what activities were befitting his first grandchild. When I was a teen, he sponsored all his grandchildren for a week-long holiday in Diani (in the white sandy southern coast of Kenya). He even allowed me to invite a friend as I had no cousins close to my age. A couple of months after that, he died peacefully (or so we hope) in his sleep. I was sad, but life moved on pretty quick.
Less than a year later, my younger brother also died. He had been sickly from birth and the doctors had given him less than a year to live. Through the grace of God and my mum’s dedication, my brother lived to 13 years. He was disabled and could not do anything for himself, but boy did he have a killer smile and his fingers – so elegant; I am sure he would have been a concert pianist. His death was more painful, more so because it was I that discovered his lifeless body that August morning. I miss him, I miss his smile and his chortles. I have 2 nephews and 1 daughter who look so much like him …
Then the ultimate blow … barely a year had passed. I had just celebrated my 18th birthday and had gone to Nairobi to visit some friends. My mother got in touch and said my dad had been admitted to hospital and I should come home. I did so the following day, but visiting hours at the hospital were over … I would visit tomorrow. “Tomorrow”, did not go as planned; we got to the hospital bright and early, hoping to see my dad on our way to an uncle’s wedding. His bed however was empty. He had died in the wee hours of that morning. That day was a blur; we attended the wedding for to miss it would have been odd, but at the same time, how do you enjoy a wedding when your father just died. Neither my mum nor I knew what to do. Oh the pain!
I’ve heard it said that death is final, but not so if you have lost a loved one. 25 years since I tasted death for the first time and I can tell you that there is no finality about death. There is no ‘closure’. For me, it’s been year after year of remembering. A song here, a hairstyle there, the smell of food, the smell of medicine. The emotions are just as real today as they were then – sometimes joy at remembering and sometimes pain at the loss. Sometimes the tears flow hot and fast and I ceased apologising for them. Now, I embrace the tears for as the Psalmist says, “Joy comes in the morning”.
In the last few years, I have lost friends and acquaintances and every once in a while, I forget that they are no longer in this life. I scroll through my phone and see texts shared and I feel sad all over again. I see a photo of a person I will never see again this side of eternity and my heart breaks afresh. Though I may feel like I have lost, I feel like a fraud for surely I have not lost as much as their spouses, their children, their parents. Then I remember that even in their grief, the business and busyness of life must go on. Children must be educated, life insurance must be pursued, court process must be initiated – oh how tiresome – and all this while the heart is still raw!
Is there a cure for grief? They say that time heals. I do not thing that it does – for me, it merely dulls the pain, making it possible to take that step to staying alive another day. It make it possible to go a day without breaking down, then you go a week, then a month, and before you know it, you no longer remember the last time you had a good cry over your loved one. At first you feel guilty … how can I forget, but time teaches us that we can go on, indeed we must go on.
Having suffered these losses, I was surprised to feel the same emotions last year. Who had died? Nobody! Why then was I grieving? I had just shed one persona (this was not a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario) and I felt lost. My grief is all too familiar and now I know that I must let time work its course and before too long, the business and the busyness of my life will allow me embrace this new me without feeling guilty about letting the old me go.
As life has it, I know not the next object or subject of my grief, only that it will come and when it does, I must strive to overcome it lest it overcome me.
My grief is real, but it is not bigger than me.