Tuesday, July 24, 2018

What would you do with your grief?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

My husband's brother died in a tragic accident 50 years ago this summer. Just recently, we heard a new (and, I think, very beautiful) story related to this sad time - how a young child helped with the healing. I have found that I can't stop thinking about it - so, I'm sharing it here. 

Imagine -
a mother,
a mother who has many children,
whose oldest child has made her a grandmother,
whose youngest children are in their teens.
Imagine -
this mother receiving the news that her 18 year old son has been killed in a construction accident.
Imagine -
her eviscerating pain, her crying, grief, and anguish.

How hard it must have been to breathe.

This was 50 years ago...the death of my husband's next oldest brother, in a small town in Georgia. My husband, Tony, was 16 at the time.
Tony remembers
he was pumping gas at his summer job,
mid-way through washing a customer's windshield,
when his typically tough, demanding boss broke in and said
"Tony, time to go to lunch."
(Tony always went home to lunch.)
Then, his boss stepped into the slow-moving traffic on the road by the gas station
to stop oncoming cars and make it easy for Tony
to slip out of the gas station and drive home.

Tony says he knew then that something awful must have happened,
but he didn't know what.

When he walked into the house,
his mother was sitting, wailing, in hysterics.
Family and friends were gathering,
his Dad,
everyone in acute pain and shock.

Wrong place, wrong time, turn back the clock, let's have a do over, this cannot be real. 

Imagine -
The next few days were a blur of pain and sadness.
A house of mourning.
Relatives, neighbors, and friends dropping by at all times, 
bringing casseroles and sympathy. 
Everyone moving on autopilot, needing a task - 
wiping up spills and tidying up,
perhaps one standing guard over a coffee maker, producing cup after cup for visitors, 
another fixing a plate of food for the grieving mother - which, I'm sure, remained untouched.
Hushed, muted voices repeating the details of his death over and over, 
in various corners of the house, 
a horrific vibration that mother and family could not shake, could not unhear.
A house filled with people and, yet, incredibly empty. 

in this mix, the youngest grandson (nephew of Tony) appears,
this six year old, in the midst of all these mourners.
Oh, I know that house was filled with people!

The grandson knew a good thing when he saw it ... 
all these people, this MUST be a family reunion, 
oh, yes, it must be.
He began to entreat, to beg, "Let's play whiffle ball!" 
Because, this is what everyone did at Mimi's when family gathered.
In-between and around all that delicious food and conversation, 
family would flow out into the backyard and play a pickup game of ball.
This was the tradition.

The little guy wouldn't be silenced,
as many a young child is not,
making the suggestion over and over
to his parents, his aunts and uncles, his Mimi and Papaw,
"Let's play whiffle ball!" 

this request,
this playful need,
in the midst of all that mourning.

Well, his own mother grabbed him by one arm and marched him to the back door to discipline him- "This stops! You do not ask to do this again! Can't you see, people are hurting?!" 
Mimi jumped out of her chair,
and rushed up to her daughter-in-law,
and interrupted - 
"Never you mind, girl - that boy doesn't know what he's asking, he doesn't know what's going on. Give him to me." 
With that, she took him out back, and, 
just the two of them,
they played whiffle ball. 

Back and forth they played, 
she squatting down and throwing the ball, 
he swinging hard.

 I can hear his little happy voice, when he hit the ball
"Yes! I got it, Mimi!" 

every time she threw the ball to him, she was a little less numb,
every time he took a big swing at that ball, her heart began to heal just a little tiny bit,
every time she chased a ball, she absorbed the love and laughter in his eyes,
it was the first soft feeling she had had in days.

Playing whiffle ball with her grandson was exactly what she needed.

There's so many things you try to skip
But who'll be there in case you slip
At the end of the day
little children.

Well, you're not alone.
You're not on your own.

- George Cromarty


  1. Oh, Maureen. This story is so tragic, but full of hope. Her grandson knew how to heal her, just a bit, on that awful day. How wise Mimi was to know that playing a little whiffle ball was what both of them needed.
    Thanks for sharing this intensely personal story with us. Even though 50 years have passed, there's no doubt the pain is still raw for those he left so abruptly.

    1. Thanks, Stacey! That's what I heard/wanted to convey - the hope. I know that the 50th anniversary of this tragedy has brought it all back to the fore...but the pain never goes away.

  2. Tragedy, sorrow and hope for healing, beautifully woven together.

  3. Your poem captures the grief, the sorrow, the sadness, and a grandmother's love.

    1. Thank you! I love that you've described this as a poem...I tried writing regular paragraphs, but the individual clauses seemed to convey the emotions better...the result is very much a poem...

  4. Life… so much sorrow, so much joy... You have crafted this story beautifully. Your repetition of the word "imagine" works perfectly!

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