Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Little Girl Named Olive

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return

All the time.

“To Bless the Space Between Us, A Book of Blessings” by John O’Donohue

Today, out of nowhere, I was stopped dead in my tracks - holding my breath, unable to move for a few moments.  Today, I heard it - I've never heard it before - not in public anyway, only in my head.

"C'mon, Olive.  Come here, Olive - this way, sweetie."

Another family passed us by as we stood in the Tropical Dome at the Milwaukee Domes.  I asked Chuck, "did you hear that?  Did you hear what her name was?"

I've never heard another child named Olive called out in public before.  There was one time, two years ago, while we were in Charleston that a school group was on a ferry with us to go visit an island. Each of the little children had a nametag on and I *swore* that one of the children had a nametag that said Olive.  As a bereaved mother, desperate to see or hear her child's name, I pushed and shoved my way through the line so that I could get closer to that little girl.  I wondered if I looked strange as I walked further and further away from my husband, toward a little girl I didn't know. I wondered if her teacher or another parent would stop me or give me a hard time, but I just had to see her name.  I didn't want to talk to her, I just wanted to see another little girl named Olive.

Her name was Claire.

I walked away as quickly as I had approached her.

How stupid.  How creepy.  How frustrating that grief does this to you.

But today, almost two years later, that desperation was back.  I wanted to see her, that little girl.  I wanted to hear her talk - she looked roughly the same age Olive would be today.  This time I just followed with my eyes and my mind drifted to what my Olive would look like, sound like.  Would she be in a mismatched outfit because she demanded to dress herself this morning, or would she let me have dressed her in a cute pair of leggings and sweater dress - all set for our Saturday morning adventure?  Would her hair be long enough for a cute little ponytail or would it still be kind of awkward and short - just long enough for a barrette?  Would she have wanted to hold my hand today or would she be exploring more of her independence and run off to see what was around the corner like this little Olive was?

I'll never know.

These moments don't come as often as they used to, but when they do come they still surprise me. They still feel heavy. They still leave me breathless.  They just don't last as long.

I'm certain the picture of this little Olive will linger in my head and on my heart for a couple more days - then she'll make her way back to the part of my brain that holds onto her until the next time grief sneaks up and carries me back to what would be.


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