mindfulness of grief

March 29, 2005

After class ended this evening, I was reading one of my child lit books when I was distracted by a thought–or, rather, by an image. It got me thinking about grief–specifically, the grief of a child. I am not sure the thoughts are coherent, but perhaps putting words to them will make them more so, so I will try.
The image is a memory. One of the few times as a child that I was able to cry–to really cry, in the gut-level, wrenching manner that I needed to. Most often, as they do, these tears were prompted by one of 3 things: words, music, or beauty. Or, even more often, by a combination of 2 or more of these.
At any rate, the memory comes from one of the summers I spent at camp–this time at Camp Ocoee, where I later returned for several summers as a camp counselor. I went to a few church cams as well, but Ocoee was by far my favorite, with all its opportunities for kayaking, canoe trips, climbing, pet tarantulas . . . but that’s another story :-)
What I was going to say [‘when truth broke in with all her matter of fact about the ice storm’] is that this particular summer, as a camper of 10 or 11 years old, I had spent the 2 week session particularly gravitating towards one of the counselors. I was never bold enough to outwardly display it, but I just found a way to be near him, somehow, at open-camp events and downtimes. It wasn’t exactly a conscious response . . . just a twinge of bittersweet longing his presence brought out in me–that sort of sadness that hints at something greater than our own somewhat stifling selves.
Towards the end of the session, during evening free time, a group of us were sitting around outside with our snacks, and this counselor got out his guitar. I do not remember what he was playing, or even what his voice sounded like. All I remember is watching his face, listening to his voice, and then suddenly, in spite of myself, losing all of my normal calm control. I was a shaking, wailing mess of a little girl. And, even at the time, I was immensely relieved at the ability to let out that pain that had been pressing against my heart all that time.
You see, something about this young man’s voice, face, manner, or combination thereof, brought back to me some remnant of my father. And so, I do not know how much he actually looked like, or sounded like Daddy, but regardless, I needed that heart-nudge in order to begin to start what would be, for my heart, at least, a long and drawn-out process of grieving.
At the time, I ended up crying so desperately that my worried counselor ushered me away to the nurse’s cabin, so I could continue my crying for some time yet, in peace and under the kind care of the nurse. But I really did not mind. I remember trying, in between sobs, to assure them that I was ok, really . . . that it was ok . . . that, in fact, I was more ok than I had been for some time. Because I was. That was a sort of a pattern that continued for quite a few years–long periods of stoic quiet seriousness followed by moments of letting-it-all-out.
And eventually, adulthood crept up on me. And somewhere between then and now I began to stop needing to grieve for my father, and began to live and to grieve for situations in my own life, or in the lives of people in my life. But I do believe that we each play a role in the lives of children around us.
Who knows but that we may, at any moment, be an impetus for some child’s growth into the adulthood they need to reach. Or that we may provide some child with an outlet for the grief she needs so desperately to get out. Or the comfort she needs while grieving . . . What I do know is that we cannot, must not, underestimate the depth of children’s emotions and experiences, as adults are so often prone to do, in our impatient busybodyness, bustling about through life. Oh, I do forget this so very often . . . and do resolve to be more mindful, more careful, more caring, in the future . . .

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