For 3 March 2023
This will be the last for the grief series for a while. I will return to my reflections on grief from time to time in future posts. The pink and blue blossoms will always be the visual symbol for entries in this series.
Like many others, I have gotten lost down the YouTube rabbit hole during the pandemic. On one such adventure, I found myself watching a video summary of the events surrounding the death and funeral of Elizabeth II. During the montage of images shown while I Vow to Thee is played, there’s an image of Charles III at the end of the state funeral. He has a look which as soon as I see it, I understand him in that moment. I may not understand anything else about him, but in that moment, I understood his grief. I know the look on his face; it has been on my own face.
Grief can be lived very publicly, like in the case of the UK’s royal family. Grief can be lived quietly, even alone. Thanks to the pandemic, I would estimate most of my time grieving was spent grieving alone. Services had to be delayed. Gatherings had to be restricted. There couldn’t have been a greater contrast between what happened in London and what happened in Owaneco, my hometown. Yet in each, grief was being expressed and lived authentically.
Grief is an equalizer. Often taxes and death are seen as inevitable, but not equalizers. However, grief is an experience through which we all travel no matter the place in our society. Grief cannot be escaped. No one can do the grieving for us; we must do it ourselves. Grief, whether king or pauper, equalizes us all. As I watched that video montage, looked on Charles’ face, and recognized we shared this common experience, I was deeply moved at how grief binds all humanity together. We all journey through grief and the shifting landscape of our interior lives’ which grief heralds.
Grief has no regard for race, creed, gender identity, sex, national origin, wealth, poverty, how much you give in money and time to any cause, church attendance, or any of the other ways we use to describe others and ourselves. Grief has no regard for anyone’s estate; it visits monarch and pauper alike. Grief visits the faithful and unfaithful, the sinner and saved. Grief and Loss visit us all.
Grief and Loss often visit together. While Loss will leave, Grief is the one who stays, lingers with us. This is what equalizes all of humanity. Loss can be escorted away. Grief stays to help clean-up afterwards. The pillow on which a kings’ head is laid will be just as wet with tears as my own pillow. We share this experience, this very human experience. The experience and journey of grief is something we all share.
I don’t really take solace or comfort in the thought of grief and loss as the great equalizer. Yet, there is something about the thought which keeps the journey in perspective. Each of us make the journey. Each of us, no matter our station, experience these twin visitors of Grief and Loss. Each of us try to make sense of the experience the best we know how.
The look on Charles’ face was one of sadness and confusion. That’s how I felt, too. It’s the sense of confusion, the re-ordering of our lives, for which we cannot prepare when Grief and Loss come to visit. We never truly know how much of a pole star a person, a place, a relationship, or a job (to name a few possibilities) can be in our lives until that guiding star is not as obvious to us. It would be easy to become trapped in the sadness and confusion. However, I have come to something different. Grief and Loss led Gratitude to my door as well.
I found myself spending too much time with the sadness of Grief during the clean-up. Another visitor came, Gratitude. I came to be incredibly grateful for the pole stars in my life. My father being the brightest of them all. There are others. Grief has not escorted me to a place of tears but of deep gratitude for the people and relationships which continue to shape and guide me to this day.
I share this experience with every other human being on the planet. We all experience grief and loss. I know I share the experience with everyone no matter their place in society. However, it’s what I do with the experience, the journey, which is important. I do not know where Charles’ journey is going. Mine leads to Gratitude. Gratitude for those parts of my pole stars which continue to shape and guide me. This is one of the ways I know God’s love: I carry it with me because others gave it to me in order to guide me when they gave themselves to me. I will always be grateful.