Saturday, April 11, 2015

Processing Our Grief

Today's blog post was supposed to be a review of Brad Torgerson's "Lights in the Deep." That review is a very important one, and it's coming, but today I have to write about something else.
Earlier this week, I got the news that a long-time friend, Virgil, had passed away. He had lived a long, active, productive life. He loved his children and grandchildren, and his wife, and His Lord.
As my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock GA was getting my clothes ready last night for the funeral today, I received another piece of gut-wrenching news. Our MGC friend, ShadowDancer, suffered the loss of her beautiful 11 week old son, Brandon Tetsuya Alrhain, likely due to SIDS.

How do I do this?
I sat there, stunned at the mountain of grief that was suddenly in front of me. It blocked my path. It blocked my view. It was overwhelming. The solace of drink is no longer available to me, due to my misuse of that great comfort during my younger years. So I sat.
At first, I wasn't even able to think. I don't know how long that lasted; probably not very long. Then I reached for my words, to help me understand, but my words weren't there. I fell back on wisdom earned at a dreadful cost: "Do the next right thing." And for a long, long time, so long that Vanessa wondered what was wrong with me, the next right thing was to sit, and be silent. And then, it was time to make a small donation to the fund established for the burial expenses for Brandon. So I did that, and then I was quiet again. I faced that mountain of grief, that represented all of the pain and loss ShadowDancer and the people who loved her were experiencing, and I had no idea of how to deal with it.

Eventually, there came one of those moments of insight, which I maintain come from God: I don't HAVE to remove the mountain. I only have to take away my part of it. My part is only a shovelful. I took away a small part of that mountain of grief by doing what I could, which was to make a small donation, and to cherish ShadowDancer and her family in my heart, and to be grateful for the safe place ShadowDancer had found recently through her friends Foxfier and others, at the Mad Genius Club, and According to Hoyt, and Monster Hunter International. Those were refuges for her, and the communities and moderators made it a safe place.
And finally, I rested.
And this morning, I got lost on the way to church for Virgil's funeral service. I've been attending that church for fifteen years, but this morning, thinking about what Virgil had meant to me, I got lost. I made it there in time to hear my friend Tony singing "If You Could See Me Now," and to hear others testify about what Virgil had meant to them. And then, they opened up the mike, and asked if anyone else would like to share, and so I told them what Virgil had meant to me.
"There are a lot of reasons people grow up without a father. But when you become an adult, you don't have to let the lack of a father destroy you; you can go and find someone to be your father. Virgil was one of the men who filled that role for me. I watched him serve, and he loved it. When I needed to buy a target pistol, I called Virgil, and he went with me to pick out a pistol. When I turned 50, and decided to get back on a motorcycle after 15 years away, the first place I took that motorcycle was over to Virgil's to show it to him. The horn didn't work, but Virgil just happened to have a motorcycle horn in his shop, and we put it on the motorcycle, and it's there to this day. But I don't have to have the motorcycle horn to remind me of Virgil: he's right here in my heart. And every time you see me doing a work of service, you are seeing a piece of Virgil there, too."
Virgil's widow, Suzie, wept when I told her Virgil had been a father to me; I'm sure she was thinking about how Virgil had been a father to her children as well, becoming their dad when they were young.
And then, on the way home (not getting lost this time), I continued to think about Virgil, and Suzie, and ShadowDancer, and the mountain.
And at some point, I got the image in my head of the mountain, but this time, there were lots of people walking toward it, and all of them had shovels in their hand.
That's how I think we best process our grief. None of us can take away the pain and loss a mother or a widow feels; but all of us can do something. All of us have a shovel, and even if the way we use the shovel is by sitting in stunned silence, then I believe that is worth doing.
Short term grief has its' own troubles, and long term grief is different. It's highly likely that I will blog on dealing with grief in the long term sometime in the future, but for now, I will sit, and hold close in my heart those who are gone, and those who remain.
Here is what ShadowDancer posted:

Today, another angel gained his wings


  1. Thank you. You've helped me feel a little less helpless, too.

    Just one shovelful? I can do that.

  2. Given your comment about the "solace of drink", you may have heard this before: Keep Coming Back.

    1. Been hearing it ever since January 4, 1988. And it's still working.

  3. You are helping the rest of us find our shovels. And handing out more. Well done, and thank you.