Mancala: Many Hands, Many Voices

This message sent 61 days ago:
Yesterday, buried my dad Too wrecked to go out Maybe tomorrow

The game begins against our will

tinted glass stones slip with clicks into shallow bowls  61 days ago?

smoothed into a bamboo board  So, 62 days ago

click, click  I stood frozen over my father’s casket

 63 days ago, we calculated prayer cards, coffee cups, and parking spaces

and whistled, he would have beenmancala 2

12 bowls, six and six, running  90 today

the length of the board

troughs on either end

12 days before that, a 700 mile countdown

across 5 states   and now we look up

one fist suspended above the board

stones willing themselves a race to spend

to fall 5 eternal days dividing 6 hour shifts

figuring 3 people per shift can sleep 4 hours each

measuring 2.5 every 2 hours  handfuls of gems

and something else every 6  shimmer in the light

we heard  click clink click clink

11 children

and  click click

married 56 years

counted spoonfuls of Popsicle, shirts cut up the back, beads on a rosary,

stitches across a quilt

parsed 80 words in a poem, studied 90 images in a video montage

counted breaths and arpeggios of time

between breaths  A stone falls away

from the board and we glance guiltily down

at the piles of colors, glance up to catch a bird

we counted on God  Flitting

and on each other  Outside the open window

under a vanishing sun

61 days? 70 days? 90 years?

click click clink click

our game ends gently

who won?

yesterday

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483 Days: Are we there yet?

How do you heal after the death of someone you care about? Someone who cared about you?

Let’s see. It’s been 483 days since that windy Wednesday afternoon when my family said goodbye to our dad. 483 days. Are we healed yet? Am I?

At the one week mark, we were hosting a wake, planning a funeral, burying our dad’s casket in the snow. That was healing.

At the one month mark, we gathered together to handwrite thank you notes to the many, many friends and others who reached out to us during our difficult time. We laughed, we cried, we remembered great times with wonderful people, felt grateful for the presence, for the encouragement, of so many others, and honored our dad’s life and long-reaching legacy. That was healing.

After a few months, we reorganized some holiday traditions because it wasn’t the same without Dad, and we knew it couldn’t and would not have to be the same. That was sad, but healing, too.

By the time the one year mark came around, the anniversary, we all agreed it had become a value to reach out to others who had lost someone. “I didn’t know it mattered,” someone said, “until I knew how much it mattered to me.” “Should I take time off work and fly across the country for her mother’s funeral?” my daughter asked. “Absolutely,” I told her. And she did. And that was healing.

Now, here we are, 1 year 3 months and 27 days later. Are we healed? We are changed. Death is not a transaction; grieving doesn’t have a start and a finish. We likely began grieving long before Dad died. We grieved over his lost car keys, his diminished ability to play piano, his fading interest in politics and football. We grieved around his lost mobility and his waning appetite. We grieved for his unique ability to communicate, to tell a story, to recount an event that had happened years before. We started grieving long before that bitter evening in December, 2012.

And we will grieve on. But like us as people, our grief is changed. We look at a photo and smile. We remember a story and call a sibling to share the memory, to laugh and enjoy and appreciate and celebrate the memory we are so fortunate to have. Strength is unleashed as we move through our grief.

483 days. Healed? Never. Better? Much.