This comes from Anne Lamott’s book, Traveling Mercies:
All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly as possible and as privately. But what I’ve discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it.
I am already grieving although the man who loves me is still among us. Today he ate half-dozen bites of watermelon, a strawberry, two or three walnut halves, the tips of fork tines coated with almond butter, and a thimble of latté. Oh, and two bites of chocolate ice cream. He told me a dream, and I tried to hang onto to it, but lost it. Or most of it. He was involved in a project, he said. In the first try at the project he was disconnected from everyone, and then in a different dream (or was it the same dream and just a different project?) everyone was working together......on something. It's hard to focus on words. There's the hum and hiss of the oxygen machine. And the place has its resident screamer. I don't think he hears her. But maybe he does. He and I have other things to talk about. The taste of morphine under the tongue. Sublingual. We talk about his dreams. His drugs. While I hear the woman screaming down the hall, a woman we don't talk about. But a woman screaming down the hall Is a woman screaming down the hall. I hear the staff interacting with her.They're doing okay. She still screams. My only hope is that she's not in pain.
"You have to buckle up," my mother said to me tonight as I sat on the couch weeping. Buck up, I suppose, is the phrase she was after. A swing and a miss. Like so much of my communication with her these days. I was speaking to the man's sister on the phone. Is there anything I want from his apartment? Everything. Nothing. Him. Us. My mother told me and the man's daughter, who was sitting beside me on the couch, how her husband (my father) died standing up. Just like that he was dead. He only fell to the floor when she tried to move him. It was terrible, she said. It was.
"Are you going to the nursing home tonight?" she asked as she shook the last drops of martini into her glass. A swing and a miss. "Sure," the spiteful horrible grieving me wanted to say, "I'll leave you here stumbling and shuffling and go lie next to him." But I left those words under my tongue where they belong. Sublingual.