Sunday, September 18, 2011

sadly howling wolves

It was a regular, busy weekend in a lot of ways. AK and I babysat Kohana, which consisted mostly of keeping one ear on the baby monitor while we watched old episodes of Roseanne on TV. I went to a sort of Tupperware-party-for-clothes thing at my sister’s house. And we packed for our trip to Montana next week.

But in the middle of all of that was Rachel’s memorial. The main one was in Denver, where she and Jeff and their kids moved about a year and a half ago, but they had roughly a thousand friends in L.A., so Jeff said goodbye twice. Or, more likely, he said goodbye quietly on his own and then endured as the rest of us attempted to wade through this absurd event. I imagine it’s like being drafted as the male lead in a really nightmarish play, this huge audience analyzing your performance.

I don’t know, maybe it’s not like that at all.

At first it just felt like a big barbecue, with really amazing tacos at the home of some people from Jeff and Rachel’s church. They lived in this fantastic, rambling old house in the foothills that used to be the carriage house of a Greene and Greene mansion. It would have been a great place for a wedding.

One of the many uncomfortable things about death is that people mourn the particular version of the deceased that they knew, and they all mourn in their own way. So if some people wanted to “give glory to God” a lot at a time when I wanted to give glory to Rachel, I had to find a way to be okay with that. Rachel knew and loved most people there much better than she knew me.

People shared funny and heartfelt memories about Rachel’s leadership skills and determination to cook eggplant for a house full of eggplant haters. It would have been kind of random for me to share anything, but if I had, this is what I would have said:

During the months when Rachel was feeling like shit and pretty much looking death in the face everyday, she took the time to email me when she heard about my miscarriage. She wrote: “I remember my miscarriage was so painful and the recovery not as quick as I hoped, and that is just the physical side. I hope you know that you are so likely to be just fine and have a great little baby (babies!). It is tough to keep going. I hope you are able to take your time on this one. Much love to you both in this process.” She was a person who cared deeply about other people in a pragmatic, funny, nonchalant way, and it seemed entirely wrong that we were all plodding through the motions of mourning as if her being gone was okay.

Because of her email, and because she was diagnosed the same week we lost the Squeakies, the two events will always be entwined for me, I think. Call it The Summer Of Awfulness. And so, even though I’ve been feeling much better overall (and I couldn’t stop thinking about how Jeff’s awfulness still has many chapters to come), I sobbed through and after the service last night in ways that transcended all reason. At one point every pore of my face was swollen with snot and saltwater. I felt like a bit of a drama queen.

Tonight Rachel and AK’s friend Suzie made pizza for a small group of us, including Jeff and the two small daughters he’s unfairly charged with raising on his own now. Mostly they drew pictures and played on Suzie’s husband’s iPad and pretended to be wounded animals at the animal hospital. I know they’ll be fine, but I also know they’ll be scarred forever, like the bears with injured paws or the sadly owoowoowooing wolves they played.


Tracy Lynn said...

The weird thing for me about grief is that I'll be fine, just moving on through, and then all of a sudden I'm gushing tears like Niagara Falls. I guess I'm not very connected to my emotions in a way.
Love you.

Cheryl said...

It sounds like your emotions are connected to you, though.


Claire said...

I've been thinking of you and AK this summer though I've been woefully uncommunicative about it. It sucks when things suck and then find ways to suck harder. I hope The Summer Of Awfulness gives way to A Fall of Fairness and A Winter of Whimsy. Best to you both.

Una said...

Cheryl, thanks for this perspective of Rachel's California memorial. I was sad to miss it, sad not to see mutual-Rachel-friends and still so sad about her being gone. It's like white noise in the background. It's like static actually. Peace & love to you & AK.

Cheryl said...

C: I hope you have a Fall of Fairness and Winter of Whimsy headed your way too--and since you have actual seasons, you'll know when they arrive.

U: Static is a good word for it. Much peace and love to you too.