grief: Missing a large part

A storm left her missing a large part of herself.

Truth be told, I thought it might take her out entirely. But rather miraculously she remained standing. And while a limb or two remain raised towards the sky, I’m never quite sure how to interpret the gesture. Is it an act of praise, gratitude that she is in fact still standing? Or are her fists raised to the heavens in protest? I suppose she could also be interceding, her posture a plea for herself or for others who find themselves in a similar circumstance.

I’ve never been quite certain, as after a loss I have cycled through all of these. From certain angles, what she lost is barely visible. And I suppose if people hadn’t known her before or hadn’t seen her in the days directly following the storms, when parts of her lay in pieces on the ground, they might think forces less tragic had shaped her. From other angles, the gaping hole in her life is more obvious; a visible scar bearing witness to some of the details of what she’s been through. Though even from this angle, in certain seasons, those when she takes on the same hues as the lives around her, she is able to blend into her surroundings enough that most take no notice of her loss. I always wonder if she prefers those seasons, the ones where she can blend in. Or does all that blending in feel like a lie?

Grief is strange like that, simultaneously wanting everone to acknowledge what’s missing while also wanting to pretend everything is fine. It’s even possible she might prefer an environment that exposes her missing pieces, perhaps find the unavoidable revealing a relief. People and places who are able to see and acknowledge, “it is what it is” can be such a grace. For the pressure of constantly trying to either hide what happened or present oneself as hopeful that it won’t always be this way is exhausting.

Now perhaps I have read too much into her experience. She is after all, only a tree. But in this season where she takes on a color which can only be described as equal parts love and anger, she seems sentient, as if she knows what grief is and how it feels to have these two emotions battling it out for pride of place. And I am personally finding comfort in the liturgy of her limbs and her honesty about the parts of one’s life that will never grow back, in her imbalance and her testimony to how loss can leave one this way and more than anything in the camaraderie I find in the fact that we are both still standing after having survived so many storms.

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