The fingerprinted nature of grief reveals that each experience of it is as unique as the loss it is tied to.
Last year in February my Grandfather died. It was sadly not the first time I had experienced some measure of loss and it would not be the last that year. I attempted to begin to fortify myself in my grief by reflecting over how I had dealt with loss in the past. I found no real comfort in the activity. It was not similar to when a friend or aunty had passed away, it was not even comparable to the loss of my other grandfather. This loss was as unique as the person I mourned. So I proceeded to clumsily find my way through the grief. In a completely new way that was only familiar in how unexpected everything was.
It is in keeping with the cyclical nature of life that the demise of one leads to the beginning of another. But sometimes, in my experience, we must force ourselves to search for the new beginning and learn from the loss. For peace of mind. How treacherously time moves on despite our pain! How do we thus see ourselves beyond the time of mourning to the celebration of legacy?
I begun to find my way to an answer a few months later when grief once again visited me, appearing at my door unannounced and staying longer than expected. A childhood friend of mine called Renee passed away from a long illness. She and I had not been in contact in a very long time. Our last long conversation took place when we were pre-teens and had probably been about something as superfluous as ‘The Babysitter’s Club’. And yet. Loss sat with me and showed me a short video reel of our shared moments in my mind. It reminded me of her close relationship with her family and how often we all joked that our two families mirrored each others. It urged me to reach out to my brother and remind him that I love him. It suggested at my selfishness for not appreciating all the things that I have, and all the paths of opportunity that are before me that I consistently blink at blearily and shy away from.
Finally, it was loss that shone the light on the true nature of legacies.
A small story. The best way to befriend strangers is to be completely comfortable with being alone. One such occasion presented itself to me as I exited a movie theatre and began discussing the film I had just seen on my own with a friendly lady. We chatted and smiled and walked softly in each others company. As we prepared to go our separate ways, she asked my name. I answered Naliaka, my hesitance hopefully imperceptible as I considered whether or not to give her a fake name. (For ease of the introductions not for some paranoid preservation of anonymity). She smiled and said as a farewell “Im Renee”. Had she glanced back as she crossed the road she would have seen me rooted where she left me, my eyes unexpectedly shiny. As a practical person I could find no logical reason for my butterfly of bittersweet emotion, nor for the warm peace that followed.
And yet, there it is.
This is a legacy of warmth: of love.