I went for a walk last weekend, through drizzly rain against the backdrop of Lake Washington, on a stretch of road I was unfamiliar with. I came across a gathering of women collecting water and I stood crying, thinking of all the women throughout history loving babies, caring for families, supporting each other to make the world safer and saner. We take turns carrying the load, whether grief or groceries. And we carry each other when one of us can no longer walk.
And I thought, How we show up for each other is all there is. That’s it, full stop.
It’s been a tough week, as our community tragically lost a young mother, a friend from my son’s preschool. I’ve been overwhelmed with grief for her family, her two little girls wide eyed and searching. And I won’t lie, it’s terrifying to be reminded how quickly you can be gone, regardless of how important you are to your kids and husband. We’re always one day away from the possible unthinkable. That’s just how these things happen.
Then I started reading Anne Lamott’s new book Hallelujah Anyway. Today I got to this passage and it warmed me:
I’ve lived through times when a connected group of humans in grief and shock stayed together as things unscrolled, when a person was dying too young, or after. What could we do? We showed up. When our best friends’ teenagers disappeared, when their fathers lost their minds, or their babies or mates were in the ICU. We lay beside them in bed and held them in our arms. We brought the bereaved a sandwich. We let them vent, maybe watched a little TV together. We offered our presence, our warm bodies, and the willingness to feel like shit with them. One even bigger gift: no snappy answers. We could nod, sigh, cry with them: maybe go to a park. Against all odds, these things work, however imperfectly, when a closed system breaks open and turmoil ensues: this collective, imperfect, hesitant help is another kind of miracle.
As with any tragic loss of life, ‘a closed system break(ing) open’, we are reminded of our need for each other. To take the time today to appreciate the people around you, to flash easy smiles and listen with interest and compassion. Our individual experiment of living is brief, some more so than others. How important it is to treat each day as an entire snapshot of a life, birth through death mirrored through awakening and sleep. How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives, as Annie Dillard said.
So I’ll channel a little of what I came to know of Adriana: I’ll be present, direct, no nonsense and kind. I’ll step into that vulnerable space of generously giving, reaching out in anticipation of need. I’ll show up for the grieving around me, however imperfect and hesitant it might be.