There are times in our lives when words are not enough, when no description can capture what we feel in our hearts. The birth of a child is one such time, and just yesterday, the daughter of an old friend welcomed her first child into the world. But my happiness for her was bittersweet. Her mother, my friend, will never experience the joy of grandchildren nor witness her daughter’s blossoming into motherhood. Many years ago, she took her own life while suffering from a protracted depression. I looked at the first photos of her daughter’s child, delighting in her arrival, but I couldn’t help but remember the morning I heard the news of her death, how unreal and shocking it was, and how helpless I felt to offer any solace to her husband. My words were not enough to express all that I felt, all I wanted to say to him. They seemed inadequate and sounded trite and empty.
Last night, I struggled for words, searching for inspiration, something to act as the trigger for this week’s writing prompt, but instead, I was caught up by the news, images of wild fires and severe storms, homes demolished or turned to rubble, thousands evacuated, and lives lost. I remembered another fire, the one that consumed my parent’s home many years ago. The impact on our family was devastating. My father’s spirit was broken, and my mother’s memories of that fateful night were told and re-told, the images as vivid as if the fire had only just happened. She never got over it.
I turned the television off and returned to my reading, searching for something, a phrase, a poem, an idea to develop for this morning’s blog post. I came up empty, and finally, late into the evening, I put my notes aside, hoping that sleep and dreams might ignite my words.
I rose at six a.m. and began working on a draft for this week’s post. I spun my wheels. Crossed out entire sentences and began again. I still couldn’t find the words.
And then the phone rang. A friend called me sometime around 7:30 a.m. Early for a Sunday. Her voice was subdued. I stood at attention, sensing that this was no casual call.
Our mutual friend had suffered the unimaginable. Her son was dead. Suddenly. Without warning. One of those cruel acts of fate we are never prepared to receive. He and his brother were out for the evening, a concert. This morning, he was gone. The shock, the sorrow is more than anyone should have to endure. And yet, we do. Somehow, we go on. I know our friend will too, but the heartache will always remain.
I remembered the night I got the kind of call no one ever wants. My husband, dead at 37, a drowning accident. His parents’ grief was far worse than my own, the sorrow so deep and unimaginable. Our children are not supposed to die before us. And yet, every day, young men and women are dying in war, children are stricken with illnesses that take their lives, and others die in accidents, or shootings.
When a child dies, a young man or woman, it feels as if our hope has been taken with them. We’re robbed of life as we once knew it, or at least, the life we thought we knew. The memory of that moment is f burned into our brains, and the heartache never goes away. But the words? Where do we find the words to convey all that we feel? To capture the memory of the life so suddenly lost. To comfort our friends in their suffering? I don’t have the answers but I do know one thing: it’s so very important to try.
Give sorrow words;
the grief that does not speak;
whispers the o’er-fraught heart
and bids it break
(From Macbeth, by William Shakespeare)