There Is Enough.
I have seen enough death, with its dry, rugged canyons, to be weary of life and the constant worry about when the next shoe will drop.
The deaths of a wife, parents, friends, and beloved pets have made me wary of letting myself love anyone this deeply again.
I have felt enough grief to know that almost everyone is mourning some loss. Almost everyone is struggling to make sense of a death that has taken a loved one away. Almost everyone is worn out by the constant waves of sorrow and despair, and we want the dying to end.
When grief becomes too much at home, I head for nature to listen to Her wisdom. I sit beside Her rivers for hours and let the sounds of the undulating water soothe my despair. I wander through Her forests when the brightness of the sun becomes too much. I hike over Her mountains and physically work out my anger and frustrations.
Every dusk I sit in a meadow, or on the side of a mountain, and listen to the birds chatting to each other as their day winds down. I watch a coyote trot past, the deer eating acorns under the black oak trees, and a hawk fly over scanning the ground. Across the valley a Great Gray owl hoots, maintaining its solitary watch.
As the yellow and orange colors of the sunset settle over the land, then shift to alpenglow’s red and purple, I feel companionship with the creatures of earth.
Around the evening campfire, I gather with others, for in the community of grievers there is life. Because of death, we know how precious breath is, and we are grateful to have each other in this broken time. We share our lives and hear the stories of struggle and hard-fought triumphs.
As I listen, I realize that in our lives there are still mountains of beauty and rivers of strength that sustain us, in places where others expected only devastation and defeat.
As the evening goes on, we move to the rhythm of the earth, to the soft beat of a drum, and we chant words of defiance to the night that surrounds us. Stirring the embers, we rekindle the fires of resistance that burn in our hearts.
I have felt enough soul to know that among us there are meadows of compassion where we find solace. People come who do not need to do so, put a blanket over our shoulders, and sit with us through the long, cold nights as we watch the moon and the great constellations travel on their ancient paths through the dark, noetic sky.
I have experienced enough hope because we are picking ourselves up and yelling that Death isn’t going to be the last word or having the last dance. And because we fight for each other, this will never end.
I have seen enough courage in my companions in grief, who rebel against the naysayers and the doom-players, against the soft-heart-haters and the sympathy-fakers, because we choose not to die in grief, but live with love.
Mark Liebenow writes about grief for the Huffington Post. His essays, poems, and reviews have been published in journals like Colorado Review, Hayden’s Ferry, Citron Review, Swink, Crab Orchard, DMQ Review, and Fifth Wednesday Journal. The author of four books, he has won the River Teeth Nonfiction Book Award, and the Chautauqua and Literal Latte’s essay awards. His work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and named a notable essay by Best American Essays 2012. His account of hiking in Yosemite to deal with his wife’s death, Mountains of Light, was published by the University of Nebraska Press. You could contact Mark via his website.