On Grief and Recovery

How long should we grieve over the death of a loved one? I suppose there is no standard answer. It is not easy to recover from a loss as irreparable as death. Some go through a grieving period of more or less one year, others go through a protracted one, while some never recover at all.

If the loved ones could speak from the grave, I am sure they would tell the living they want the grieving period cut short. I am sure they would do everything to take us out of the state of suspended animation and help us bounce back to life.

I am posting what I imagine to be a voice from the grave to a loved one. I wrote it for my friend Harry Basingat (moderator/owner of Bibaknets), whose wife succumbed to stroke last year. Harry is going through the difficult process of recovery. He is actually making effort to circulate in the Land of the Living, but always with reservation. Yesterday, he expressed his interest in ballroom dancing (Translation: He is realizing that he was not buried with his wife.) but I could sense that he was holding back. The culprit could be guilt because his wife died while he was here in the Philippines and she was alone in their US home. What makes this story more poignant is she was getting ready to join him here. She never made it. Perhaps, Harry thinks that sinking in sorrow is a tribute to his beloved wife and soaring from it is betrayal. We who are not in fact in his shoes at the moment can readily say he is wrong. However, the matter is not one easily settled by logic or reason, it is one addressed to the emotion. I think my friend has this emotional baggage that he needs to shake off to facilitate his reintegration into - let me say it again- the Land of the Living.

I wish I were a psychologist or a psychiatrist so I could figure out the situation. Perhaps, I would be in authority to tell Harry that he has grieved long enough and he should not be stabbed by compunction when he yearns to be a regular guy (Translation: what he was before his beloved wife's death). Like all his friends, I want to pull him -body, mind, and spirit- out of the shell he withdrew into after the tragedy. Not being a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, I could only write a poem. I hope reading it will help Mng Harry make a complete exodus from the different world he inhabited for more than a year.

Call for the Next Dance
(for Harry B.)

How we used to dance together.

The dinner table would be set
With its lyrical sparkle of low light,
the candle would bid us:
Dance!
With mine, your body would move
in all directions,
weaving a poetry of motion
creating – unconsciously-
beautiful memories
that we would summon
with a smile,
not sorrow
when we could not dance
together anymore
Ah, how we loved to dance

In the morning
At noon
In the evening
How we loved to dance

When eternity was ours
in our moments of solitude together
or with a coterie of friends
or even total strangers,
we would dance
You would dance with a swarm of
lithe bodies or stiff ones
As long as I was there
I would watch as your feet pirouetted
as if controlled by some spirit of their own
You loved to dance

And before the next ball
I was snatched as I was about to hurl myself
to your waiting arms
after we were apart for a few days
the few that seemed frustratingly infinite
But the train came too fast, stopped long
(or short) enough to load me and absconded
before I could beg for a chance to say
to you
Goodbye
in the fashion we were accustomed
I wish we could have gone to the
Last Dance
which you skipped
because I could no longer go with you
Even if
You loved to dance

Lately, I would silently feel you
intuitively hankering for a dance
But you would not move your feet
Because I could not mine
Even if
You loved to dance

Because you must,
I let you grieve
I let you stop dancing
Even if
You loved to dance

The datebook of the past year is no longer there
in its place one desperate to remind you
time has moved forward with slow precision
Or have you not noticed?
The interregnum has been long
Even the Great Source of Wisdom says
There is a time for everything
A time to cry, a time to laugh
A time to hurt, a time to heal
Too, there must be, for you,
A time to forget, a time to remember
A time to bury a loved one,
A time to exhume the stirring memories
that say life does not end with one death,
Like how
You loved to dance

There is a ball
Why does the spirit in your feet slumber
Still?
You do not want to go
because I will not be there,
You think?
Even if
You loved to dance

Go to the bedroom
(Which is no longer ours but yours; let the
last of me vacate it so you can be whole)
Open the wardrobe
Retrieve your dancing pants
and your dancing shoes
Heed the call of the dance floor
It missed you for too long
This last time
I will be there
Before the clock strikes at midnight
Let me go
Because really
I have gone a long time
as your dance partner

Before I go, brace your ears
Let me stay
long enough to whisper to you

Dance again.

Cheryl Daytec, 10 July 2007
Post a Comment