The last time we were renovating, we were relatively new to this house, busy with elementary school kids, eager to create a home for them that would grow with them. I catalogued those renovations back in the spring of 2008. Looking back to those posts and a host of others before and after on this lowly old blog, there is one small and constant voice in the comments section. (before I realized that there were comments!!) Just the one. I don’t think many people were reading my early efforts really. But Esme was.
Es was a dear friend of my kids. They bookended her in age and the three of them spent countless hours together. I wrote about losing her in this blog post from March 2009.
Today is the somber anniversary of that loss, a loss that rippled through a community in ways still being navigated. It’s been 12 years. Madeleine made the journey home from Columbus today and we met up at Spring Grove Cemetery to pay homage to a young life ended too soon. There is a tree there, planted in Esme’s honor and we made our way to it. I remember when the tree was first planted, Es’s dad Tom would personally hand carry big buckets of water over to it to make sure it had enough. So many trees in Spring Grove. He wanted to make sure this became a tree for the ages. It has.
There is something about the time in which we find ourselves just now – this pandemic – which has peeled some layers of vulnerability back on all of us. My kids, now young adults, may finally be able to look at what happened to Esme from a slightly broader perspective. Perhaps they even feel some company in grief, now that we find ourselves surrounded by it.
It is miraculous to stand amidst the boughs of this amazing weeping cherry and think of how much we have all grown over time. How much stronger we all are.
We can bear so much now, with love in our hearts, and the perspective of time.
This nation has lost 500,000 people. Like the virus that has us all at a stand still, grief rides the air and it can seep into everything. No one is left untouched. Perhaps we will support one another in grief and learn to live and love in kinder ways, I do not know.
What happened to Esme was a random and strange thing – a strike of lightning in a way. Violence against women is – and always has been over the ages – rampant, with some women more at risk than others. In every family, and for every young friend who loses someone – that loss shapes the lives of everyone touched in their lives.
This cannot be over-stated.
Sometimes when I consider the grief in the wake of this pandemic, or in the epidemic of missing or murdered indigenous women, I think of Esme and of the affect her loss had on our lives. None of us were ever the same. We still grieve. And while we were her friends and we loved her dearly, we weren’t even her family. I think of the hundreds of thousands of families, and loving friends, who’ve lost someone this year and I know a bit of the road ahead.
Grief is a prickly thing. We all navigate it differently. But grief, much like birth and death, is something we share as human beings. And while the way through this journey of both grief and more broadly of being human is very personal, there are some tried and true paths which seem well lighted.
The gifts of music, art, nature, poetry and friendship (even if distanced just now) can be a bit of a healing balm through the tears. It is our only option really, to seek beauty through sadness.
We have not been without our rough times after the loss of Esme. Life is life, yes? But our kids never really went through a stereotypical stage of teenage rebellion as they were sort of catapulted into the realities of the world at a much too early age. The two of them have the most tender hearts, in part because of a Big Loss at such a young age.
We have a choice when we experience loss. We can either harden, or deepen. With the tools of art, music and kinship, we can choose to deepen (perhaps not right away, but eventually). As painful as it might seem at the time, deepening is better than hardening, yes?
This time of year is normally fraught with a bit of tension. The Irish music and dance arenas are on full throttle and we can tend to bottle up or bury the sadness of years past. This is ok, and a very human thing to do. We mark this anniversary in our own private ways most years. This year though, we are at a strange collective standstill and are given a small gift of space. A moment of silence to work into grief a bit, our own and that of the community at large, locally, nationally, globally. Let us not harden.
Let us grow, even with dark shadows at our heels. Let us deepen.
I wish you all peace. Through the grief of the age.
****this is public post also available at my Patreon Page. If you’d like to support my work and writing over there, the link is this: https://www.patreon.com/amybogard