Dusting off the Grief Box

Monday, January 11, 2010

Imagine you have a little box. It is a good-sized box which might be covered in a layer dust on it depending how often you pull it out. The edges might be well worn and the sides perhaps dented from being handled fairly often, or your box may be in pristine condition without a mark or scratch to tell you its been touched. The box is full of memories, but there is always room for one more. Each time you add one, the memories that were previous stored inside come billowing out, reminding you of past experiences.

I feel like grief is that box.

On Saturday I attended a celebration of life for dear Gord, who passed away just before the start of the new year. It was a beautiful service and truly a celebration of his life. Gord would have loved it. He would have been so pleased that it was standing room only, with people laughing, smiling and sharing stories of his wonderful life.

Whenever someone passes away or I have to attend a funeral, I am always transported to my mother’s funeral. My emotions and feelings of grief bubble right back up to the surface and my box of grief splays open. I have spent a lot of my life grieving and healing, but there is something about funerals that takes me right back there.

At the age of 13, my mother’s funeral was the first one I ever attended. I remember going with my grandmother to pick out an outfit for my mother to wear for the viewing. It was a pale green suit that she would have loved, as green was her favourite colour, but was a little more formal than anything I had ever seen her wear (she was a jeans & t-shirt kinda gal). I later went shopping with my grandmother to buy a new outfit to wear for the funeral. “Going somewhere special?”, the helpful saleswoman asked as I tried on black pinstripe pants. “Yes”, my grandmother replied softly before telling me that the pants fit fine and pushing me back into the change room so I wouldn’t have to give any more details as to where I was going.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the actual funeral. The casket was to be closed for the service, so the funeral staff brought us into a private room just before we were to start so we could say our goodbyes prior to them closing the casket. After “staying very strong” for the 2 viewings, I cried for the entire service. I don’t remember the readings or any of the speakers. I don’t know how many people were there or how big the room was. When it was over I was taken to the front of the funeral home, where I felt like I was in real time while a fast forward movie went on around me. I remember seeing fast-moving blurs of people around me, stopping to talk and leaving a few at a time, but I don’t remember who they were, nor our conversations.

I have one vivid memory from the viewing. I was standing with my uncle outside the room where my mom was, chatting with one of my middle school teachers. There was another viewing taking place in the room across the hall, and from where I was standing I could see the casket of the deceased. There was a woman standing in front of the casket, looking down thoughtfully. I turned back to my conversation, only to be approached by the woman a few seconds later.

“Is that your mom?” she asked, gesturing to my mother’s casket.
“Yes” I replied.
”Show me her”

She took me by the hand and walked up to my mother’s casket with me. Her hand was very cold. We stood there for a few minutes before she said “She was very beautiful”. And walked away.

I am not a religious person, but I truly believe she was an angel. Whether she was a being from another realm or just a kind, kooky soul who wanders around funeral homes in the GTA, it was truly a beautiful moment in my life and something I will hold with me forever. 12 years later, that is one of the only memories of my mom’s funeral that really stands out in my mind. Attending Gord’s service on Saturday brought my grief box out of its tucked away corner, and brought back memories of my mom’s death & funeral as well as many of the subsequent funerals I have attended since then. SANY2969

On days when I need a little extra love, I always wear a locket my Aunt Sharon gave to me that has a picture of mom in it. It is the perfect anchor. In the picture she looks happy and healthy and it’s comforting to hold her so close to my heart.

On February 24th I will dedicate my performance to my mom and Gord, as the day marks her death anniversary and his birthday.

I will miss Gord’s sense of humour and the mischievous twinkle in his eyes. No one could stop a show like Gord. In the last couple weeks I have cried and laughed as I thought about him and the shows we did together. I will add his memory to my box, and put it back on the shelf until the next time I need it. It won’t be the same without him in the audience on opening night, but I know he’ll be watching from the best seat in the house, sharing a snack and a giggle with my mom.

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.”


Judi said...

I loved your post! I found your blog about a week ago and liked what I read, so came back today and saw the post about your mother. My mom passed away 5 yrs ago (she was almost 76). The first year was very hard, but after that it became easier for me. There are days when I still feel grief and loss, however, I can now say that she is in a better place. I miss her every day, but I know that she is with me, or sends her angles to watch over me.
Thank you for such a lovely post!

Lynn said...

What a lovely remembrance of your mother and your friend. Angels do exist. Love to you.

kathyj333 said...

I lost my mother more than 17 years ago. I lost my father in 2006. I lost my husband in 2005. I keep an real grief box, filled with things that had belonged to my husband—his wallet, some pictures, his wedding ring. It helps to remember. And I agree with L. Angels do exist.

Lauren said...

What a beautiful post!! I believe she was an angel as well, touching.

Sadie said...

That is so beautiful. I hope the happy memories will give you some peace while you grieve.

January's a tough month for me too, the "grief box" seems wide open right now.

Thank you for sharing this.

Michelle said...

How timely! Early this morning, my uncle, godfather and good friend passed away after a long cancer fight. My grief isn't for myself, but for his wife who has lost her best friend and lifelong partner, and my grandparents, who now have to say goodbye to their oldest son. He was only 55 years old.

He left his mark on scores of people, and we are better for having him in our lives. He led a rough life, but turned it around 10 years ago, with plenty of time to mend and grow damaged relationships. What a great person, I love him so much!

Rachel said...

Ashley...what a beautiful, touching post. I love your grief analogy and definitely relate after experiencing the death of my father in June, 2007. I'm sure you've made your mom very, very proud.

LJ said...

Beautiful post, Ashley. Thank you so much for sharing...you brought tears to my eyes.

Alex said...

I have no doubt that your mum is with you during every challenge. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend.

Angels unquestionably exist, and they appear when we need them and when we are open to their presence. This truth has given me a lot of comfort at various points in my life, and it's amazing that so many people have had similar "encounters".

Good luck with your last week of work! Hopefully things will get more relaxed soon :)

Unknown said...

I just had to say your post brought tears to my eyes as I lost my lovely Grandmother (Babci) over Christmas. We also had a celebration of life held this past Friday, and it was amazing to see how many lives my Grandmother had touched. Thank you so much for giving me a new way to look at grief.

Ashley Gibson said...

Thank you everyone for your kind comments and sharing your own stories of love and loss.

Judi - Some years are definitely better than others. Sometimes it just hits me out of nowhere and other times I know it's coming. It's wonderful that you're able to feel that she is watching over you.

Kathy - I have a variety of objects too. I'm lucky to have a journal that my mom kept as well as her wallet. And I agree with both you, Alex and L, angels do truly exist.

Sadie - I hope this month is okay for you. Please get in touch if you need someone to listen <3

Michelle - I am so sorry to hear about your loss. He sounds like he was a lovely impact who had a profound impact.

Rachel - I am sure that you too have made your father proud!!

Laura Jill - thank you

TropicalHappiness.com said...

Beautiful beautiful post! Losing a loved one is never easy. My grandmother passed away in November, and I never realized the grief I would feel. Her viewing and funeral were so hard, but crying with my family members was actually a good way to mourn our loss. I can't imagine the pain you felt losing your mother. You seem to really be able to keep her memory alive and to keep her close to you. :)

GF Gidget said...

Beautiful... simply beautiful...

Unknown said...

Beautiful post Ashley, made me teary eyed...

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

Beautiful and heartfelt post. Lovely.

Catherine said...

Lots of love and hugs to you. Thank you for sharing your innermost thoughts. It was a very touching post and may the angels be by your side.

Anonymous said...

Ashley, thank you for sharing your memories. I lost my mom when I was 8 and always find your posts about your mom hit home with me. I also remember the ritual of buying something to wear, and my Aunt did my hair in a french braid. My strongest memories of my mom's funeral are how nice the bathroom was lol. Everything was high class so the bathroom was huge. I spent most of the time looking through a magazine about dogs with the receptionist and naming each - aka avoiding the awkwardness in the other room. I dread going to funerals to this day. I agree that the predominant grief felt is definatley for the loss of my mom. Thanks again for sharing. I really enjoy your blog!

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