"It's an honor to be in grief. It's an honor to feel that much, to have loved that much." Elizabeth Gilbert
I woke up this morning at 4:10am to the word sidelined. Wide awake...sidelined. I looked at the clock, then laid back down and said it out loud: sidelined? And then the relief ran through me: Oh, it's a title. Oh, thank God--I'm writing again. And just like that, I'm up, my hair is back, desk cleared, candles lit, coffee poured, computer waking up, assignment clear.
I lost a dear friend recently. Maybe not so recently, it's already been 3 weeks. Maybe it will just feel recent for awhile. For many weeks, months, before she died, we spent time together--going to and from appointments, talking, processing, getting ready, really. Around the holidays she had a surge of energy and I played elf, doing what she needed to make a great Christmas for her family. And she did make a great Christmas, the greatest Christmas, one of the best Christmases they've ever had. She told me that her daughter texted on her way home afterwards that she was totally blissed out.
It was her last Christmas--she knew that, I knew that, her family knew that. But she was feeling better than she had in a looong time, and, well, it was Christmas. So we suspended what we knew. She dove in with everything she had, and I watched from the sidelines. It was a game well played.
Things started to change right after that, kind of like you knew they would, but, boy, the magic of Christmas is powerful, so powerful that reality sleeps. But it wakes up again when you usher in the New Year, and the next seven weeks were long and fast at the same time. With grace and courage and humor she was back out on the field, but playing an entirely different game. I was on the sidelines again, fully engaged but doing only what you are able to do from there: getting water, offering support, witnessing. Along with her family, her doctors, her friends, all the people who's lives she touched--we were all on the sidelines encouraging her, cheering on the beautiful life she made.
And suddenly, it was over. Right in the middle of texting, processing the day and strategizing for the night ahead with her husband, he sends She's gone Diane. With three words, the field is empty. All the lights and music and noise and action and suspense and beauty that make a flesh and blood life just aren't there anymore. You can cheer your heart out and pray for a different ending, but it's going to go the way it's going to go. And now you're in grief. You probably already were, but now it takes center field.
"No one ever told me that grief feels so like fear." C.S.Lewis
Yeah, no one ever told me that grief feels so like fear. I think, in part, it's because you can't control it. You can't apply time management to it. You can't schedule it. You can't set aside time for it. And you can't know what seemingly benign thought will bring it rushing in and then shut down what you might be in the middle of doing. No one ever tells you that you will likely be sidelined by grief, either. That's where the real fear comes in. Everything kind of comes to a halt, and you don't even realize it. You might be going through the motions, but one day you look up and three weeks, or four, or five have passed, and other than the basics, you've just been sitting there. It's not wrong, but it is scary.
"The only way around is through." Robert Frost
When I woke up this morning and had the word sidelined, I knew it was time to move into a new season. My friend is gone, the grief probably isn't. But the best way to honor her life and mine is to get back out on the field fulltime. I might get tackled by grief here and there, but it will happen because I'm back in the game. My game. And, actually, my field is a trail (and a barbell, and some monkey bars...). The only way around grief, big or small, is through it. I can take everything I saw and experienced from my time on the sidelines and apply it to my life, apply it to my running. I suspect one day I'll be running down the trail and will realize that I've run it out; that, little by little, it's dropped off and I'm lighter. Until then, it's good to be writing again, it's a privilege to be running, and it's an honor to be in grief.