Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

I was taking the #72 Golden Gate Transit bus home from San Francisco, when my phone rang.

I typically shun people who pick up phone calls on long-distance public transit, but it was my sister-in-law; since my brother passed, I am keen to pick up calls from family, regardless of whom I piss off.

“Do you have a moment to chat?”

Wait. Actually, no. That’s not what she said. She said:

“Are you in the emotional state to capably talk?”

Yes, this is more like her (she’s a psych grad). I pinched my face together and attempted to raise my voice as high and as soft as I could, and whispered:

“I’m on the bus.”

These four words, I reasoned, were sufficient to convey worlds.

“Okay, but you are feeling all right to talk?” she clarified.

I said nothing, but telepathically sent to her: I’m currently available, and my emotional temperament just dandy, so yes — I am in an affirmed mental state to continue a discussion with you; however, I am on public transit, so out of courtesy to others, I would like to keep the conversation brief and my participation to as few words as possible.

“All right. You can talk?”

[pause. Scrunchy face and baby voice:]

“I can listen.”

“Oh,” she went on, “well, I just heard from the coroner.”

My heart started beating. We’ve been waiting to hear back from the coroner on the cause of my brother’s death for three months. It has been a major source of frustration — how could they keep a family waiting this long? Isn’t that disrespectful? Don’t people have a right to know as soon as possible the reason for their loved one’s death? — and I’ve been feeling both heavy and empty with so many unanswered questions weaving themselves through my days.

And now that I had the answer coming to me, I didn’t want to hear it.

* * *

There is a funny tendency we humans have, where we can’t quite bring ourselves to do something good for ourselves, even when we know we will be happier that we did it: drag ourselves to the gym, get out of bed on time, tell someone No, I don’t have time to baby-sit for your whiny toddler all weekend for no pay, ETC.

It’s as if the anticipation of that first initial highly uncomfortable moment outweighs all of our logic and reasoning that knows this is actually what we want.

I’m discovering the same goes for the grieving process. Doing things that I know will help me are the very things I find myself wanting to avoid: I don’t want to see friends, I don’t want to read spiritual texts on death and dying that give me some sort of omni-grounded perspective, and I certainly don’t want to witness myself going through any sort of “process of growth.”

…Even though it’s good.

…Because it feels uncomfortable.

I want to, on this 29th day of February, leap right over all this “middle stuff” and end up squarely on the polar end of grief– oblivious indifference.

People think the opposite of grief is joy. Au contraire, mon ami. I am plenty joyful, finding the dynamic complexity that is life, and appreciating it for all it’s beauty. Really. I am.

What I am not doing, and what I will never be able to do again, is swim in the lukewarm waters of ignorance.

And perhaps that’s why, when my sister-in-law called with the news that could begin to bring me closure, that could continue to move me along the path of understanding — I wanted nothing of it.

I didn’t want to come one step closer to acceptance. Acceptance, in my mind, was some perverse form of betrayal to my brother, a kind of resignation to what is; so long as my life is disrupted with the lack of his, his absence is not fact — his death is a strange cognitive dissonance that my brain still suspects of ir-reality.

Once I accept, once my life returns to “normal”, my brother Really, Is, Dead.

Closure? As someone once said “I prefer to leave the door open to interpretation, thank you.”

§427 · February 29, 2008 · Unthinkable Loss · · [Print]

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