Saturday, May 3, 2014

Challenging Grief

A Hibernating Tree, Custom House Plaza, Monterey State Historic Park (March 2013)
A Hibernating Tree, Custom House Plaza,
Monterey State Historic Park (March 2013)
They say death comes in threes. That was true for me recently. After a month of emotionally-charged practices, my sisters and I sang at the memorial service for a dear friend at Saturday. He had been a church elder when we were kids, and he and his wife were like another set of grandparents to us for many years. Within a day after, I heard that the husband of one my great aunts and another kind elderly man from my former congregation had also passed away.

Now all three men had been living on borrowed time for years, and their states of health suggested that things were probably coming to a rapid close. However, their deaths still came as a bit of a shock. Add to all this a sudden bout of the flu and the pressures of wrapping up a stressful semester, one filled with scheduling mix-ups and problems with students cheating and just being plain bratty, and you can see that I’m a bit frazzled. This past week I only got to attend two brief days of the 2014 Newport Beach Film Festival, and missed the 2014 Pepperdine Bible Lectures entirely, two events that because of my respective NBFF volunteer history and Church of Christ ties I try not to miss. I genuinely feel as though my life has turned upside down in the last week.

It’s a strange coincidence that last month I just happened to join a book club at the local library and it so happened that the month of April’s selection was Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. This memoir follows the author as she struggles to cope with her mother’s death and finds peace hiking portions of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a 2,663-mile long passage that stretches from the Mexican to the Canadian border.

Overall I liked the book, as it brought back some humorous childhood memories of backpacking in the same Sierra Nevada. More importantly, I grew to appreciate the author’s drive to overcome a rather eyebrow-raising past and remake her life for the better in light of the personal tragedy with which she was struggling.

Maybe I should take note. It’s not that I believe grieving is wrong. Taking your time with it is very important for a full recovery. I was able to move on from two heartbreaks and countless other deaths because I allowed myself to take whatever time necessary to heal, be it days or years. Only after a proper grieving period is it really possible to look beyond the gray skies towards a bright horizon. And that’s what I see: a bright future in the making. That’s the strange thing about death: it gives hope for rebirth.