There are days or well maybe more accurately moments when I am touched by a moment of peace, calm or gratitude. If I am especially blessed I will get touched by all three at the same time. I call these moments, a grief reprieve. A reprieve because even though I know that grief will still be there, will in some way always be there, that in that moment I am gifted to have not only a feeling of being somewhat removed from that grief but of feeling joy as well.
I’ve had a few very important grief reprieves since John died. One when I moved to my new house and woke the next morning, alone, quiet and calm. Another when I visited the Effigy Mounds and spent the entire day walking where First Nation people traveled, loved and lived thousands of years ago. Still another, perhaps less awing to the outsider, but even greater in peace giving to me was one morning last winter as the hostile wind blustered outside with below 20 degree weather while I stood at my kitchen counter, meticulously making tea as the heat register softy blew warm air onto my feet, and Abbey the beagle sat nearby. A quiet moment but in that moment I knew deep peace for where I was and deep belonging to the place I was in and all those who were sharing it with me, even if from a distance.
Of course as I’ve moved along grief these last many months I have found ways to give myself small reprieves throughout each day as I need them. A hot cup of tea to fortify against stress, a few moments of mediation to resist being overwhelmed and beautiful soul feeding music each and everyday to keep depression at bay.
Still sometimes, like this morning, these moments sneak up on you. Early this morning I was babysitting for a friend, her youngest, barely one, is still at that stage of needing his mama in his eyesight at all times. He was not pleased when she left and spent a good twenty minutes at the door she left through waiting for her return, he cried for the first few minutes, but then he simply sat and waited at the door, giving me the mean eye to let me know I was NOT who he wanted. After a bit he grew frustrated and tried to get out of the door to find her, but being barely one that wasn’t possible. With his frustration growing I went to him, and against his mean eyes, scooped him up, cradled his now crying self against me, bouncing him softly and cooing to him till he gave up, only about four minutes lol, then he snuggled in and quickly feel asleep against me.
We stayed that way for the better part of an hour. At some point I became very aware of his sweet, warm self nuzzled into me, his soft breath against my shoulder, his hot drool rolling down my shoulder and into the crook of my arm. I could smell his warm, sweaty head as bent down to kiss his damp hair and in that moment the warmth, the feel, the scent of a tiny person was a gift, an absolute grief reprieve. I breathed in a shaky but full breath of gratitude for that moment, for that gift.
In the book Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen there is a quote about grief and it states that the most important part of grief is “waking up”, as I drove home today I found that I was feeling very grateful for having woken up from deep grief, maybe not fully yet, but at least enough to notice a gift, a grief reprieve, and to be utterly in awe and deeply moved by them, especially among the sorrow that has become my companion.
I am enormously grateful that I am awake enough now, nearly two years out, to at least be of service to others as their babysitter, their errand runner or their last minute baker. I’m grateful that I have woken up enough to be a better friend than I was capable of those first many months of early grief. I’m grateful to have woken up, at least enough, to know when I am holding a precious gift, a grief reprieve, literally in my arms, and that alone is a wondrous gift.