Tag Archives: death

We Will Find Goodness In All This Sadness

No matter how many presents I wrap this holiday season, there ain’t nothing pretty and tied up nice about this December. Because when the grief rolls in and my legs get heavy, the honesty is the only thing tucked underneath my Christmas tree.

Right now, my life feels like two ends of a frayed string of lights. In one hand, the past. In the other, the future.

All because some story never got its pretty-with-a-bow ending. All because I’ll be spending this Sunday in God’s waiting room, trying not to let my voice shake when I tell these strangers and friends that some endings don’t get to look sparkly. Some endings don’t get to shine. Some endings look a little worse for the wear, a little impromptu, a little hard to swallow.

It’s what happens when somebody dies in the middle of a big ole brawl. The screaming only stops long enough to turn to silence. The searing anger only subsides so we can sob and tuck sorrow into the pockets of our black lace dresses.

I have a love-hate relationship with the month of December. It’s pretty darn pathetic the way I turn to a 13-year-old girl every year, willing myself to remember the wise words of a man who’s been beneath the ground for almost a decade now. And I guess I never thought I’d christen my Thanksgiving eve with the news that you, you are done with this little old life, this big ole battle.

I forgot what it felt like to process tragedy in all its newness. And so I sat on my parent’s fireplace and put my head in my hands and said, mouth agape, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t wrap my head around this.”

Just can’t wrap my head around the messiness of no resolutions. Just can’t wrap my life up nice and neat when you’ve got no hellos left, only goodbyes. Just can’t wrap my fingers around paper reserved for all the words I have yet to say to you.

Tell you about my first apartment, my life fresh out of college. The way I sometimes think about that last phone call back in March, the voicemail you never returned.

It’s like opening an old scar with a fresh wound. It’s like eternally ending on bad terms. It’s the fight that never ends in an apology, the kind that leaves you tossing and turning all night long for the rest of forever.

It’s hard to deal with a loose ending that leaves us torn into two halves—before you left and after.

I never intended to let my mamma call herself an orphan the week before she turned fifty. Never intended to scrape blog posts into Word documents and speak them loud and shakily in front of people.

It is much easier to write my heart into a WordPress draft when nobody, absolutely nobody, is there to judge me. And I never thought I’d have to pull these blog posts into a story. I never thought the last thing I’d ever say on the subject of you would be crafted in an HTML document and blasted out for the Internet but never your own eyeballs. That I would write you a story and never tell you about it.

But I would like to be the kind of blogger my family turns to when things get weird, when lives get messy, when hearts get achy. That’s sort of how it happens these days. That’s sort of how it plays out.

I could’ve lived with the weight of my words so long as I never had to string them together like Christmas lights brightening up a eulogy. But I do. And I am. And we will find some goodness in all this sadness, so long as we have the choice to remember the past for what it was: glorious and short-lived, quietly content and full of the fabric of this family.

But here I am, pulling a paragraph here and a sentiment there and teaching my brain how to tie up that which will never be resolved, that which you will take to your grave.

I pray there is a generation with fiery red hair and painted in freckles, dedicated to eating dessert first.

My grandma & I at Long Beach Island

My family will maintain that my grandmother is buried six feet under the ground at Fair View Cemetery in Red Bank, New Jersey. But that’s not true. Not really.

The truth is that she’s alive. More alive than most people in my life. She’s strategically spread herself, clinging to everything in sight like the smoke from the cigarettes she used to smoke.

When I was eight years old, standing in front of an open casket, I stumbled silently over my Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s.

The scents of fresh cut flowers, too much cologne and Mint Milanos distracted my brain, forcing me to start over.  I kneeled until my kneecaps imprinted themselves into the maroon plush, until I wrapped my head around the concept of death.

Back then, my biggest gripe was not being allowed to miss school to attend the funeral.

And then, instead of just abiding by the rules of death — you know, the gone forever part — she played a trick on me. Her presence crept up on me, bleeding into the remaining members of her family.

I should’ve forgotten her. Thirteen years ago. Instead, what I do remember is distorted. Like fragmented pieces of glass that — when glued back together — won’t be enough to reframe a mirror.

My first memory of my aunt is in a hospital room. All the lights are turned off; the glow from the whitewashed hallway is the only light penetrating the darkness.

It’s an intimate moment. A woman just six years older than I am now is hunched over a bed. Her shoulders wrench up and down. I stand back, hoping to fade into the background as she pleads. Bargains with her terminally ill mother not to die.

Motherhood, I’ve come to realize, is a legacy passed on to the next generation. Maybe a mother doesn’t sit her children down and tell them how to behave and how to raise a child, but she prepares them silently.

My grandmother, in fact, grew quite good at sitting her children down and telling them how not to behave.

“Do as I say,” she insisted, pushing vegetables around on her dinner plate but not eating them. “Not as I do.”

I see her in my own mother, who lays on the couch wrapped in a blanket even in the middle of June. Devouring novels of love and morality and conflict as if they were crossword puzzles.

And in my aunt, who believes in the “always have something prepared for dessert” theory. Maybe, with three growing boys, you’re obligated to abide by that rule.

And now, long after she is gone, I see her in my roommate whose parents, ironically, were from Red Bank, too.

“Desserts first,” my grandma would say. And I’d joke about opening a restaurant with the same name.

My roommate believes in relaxing; she’s an expert in it, really. She doesn’t take herself too seriously. And she bakes three times a week.

So the years will pass; the leaves will change colors and the people in my life who most reflect her will grow older. But I will find new ways to find her in the strangers on the sidewalks or the grocer at the store. Her fiery red hair will crop up in someone else’s DNA and her freckled skin will splatter itself across someone else’s cheekbones.

And I will pray that there is a generation dedicated to tough love, desserts first and romance novels.

Because there’s a large piece of that glass stuck inside of me. Absorbed into my blood and clinging to each generation until Cissy Rossetti is a legacy.

Quite frankly, she already is.