The waves of grief continue to pound the shores of our hearts, slowly breaking off tiny pieces that sometimes feel irretrievable. Some of the waves are familiar now. Like the subtle and obvious reminders of Margot that seem to be everywhere we look. Babies, sisters at the park, ashes in the fire, an empty belly, the eery quiet of our home that should have been filled with infant wailing and dancing and friends. Or when I look at pictures of Margot, which I do every single day. I stare at her face and limbs and try to see something new, like the shape of her knees or the tiny dimple above her lips. Or the inevitable reality that most of the world has gone back to normal life. To jobs and counting their blessings and happiness and Facebook updates and exclamation points. I’m not sure this familiar grief has gotten easier to face, but it’s gotten something....perhaps there is comfort in the familiarity of it, or maybe even peace.
Then there are the waves of grief that come as a surprise and force me to take a deep breath in order to avoid throwing up. Like why must I wake up at 5am thinking about the fall on the sidewalk? Why does it replay over and over in my mind like a cruel slideshow where every slide is the same image? Or sometimes the grief is a sudden flash into my future life. This wave seems to build up steam, getting louder as it approaches, and then states boldly in no uncertain terms: Margot is still missing. I don’t even know how to begin handling this kind of unexpected grief. It builds and crashes and knocks me over until I’m standing naked and overwhelmed, lost at where to turn next.
And yet. AND YET.
Every so often, even smack dab in the middle of this grief, as the waves pound with fury, I find myself face to face with something so profound and beautiful I can hardly believe it can exist. For there in the darkness lurks courage.
From the early moments of this tragedy until now, a poem by William Henley has allowed us the words to declare our courage.
I whisper it in the depths of my despair. I chant it when the anger bubbles up, when I’m the worst version of myself, in order to bring myself back down. We utter it to each other in the most hopeful of moments, when it feels like we actually believe and feel it.
It was one of the first thoughts Kari shared with me after waking up from our five hour nightmare, when life and death teetered back and forth almost inevitably, as if losing a baby and a mother in the same evening isn’t out of the ordinary.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul...
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Amen and amen.