A dear friend, a skilled event planer, was helping me plan my recent Pittsburgh "Performing the Book" event. She explained that, in order to encourage people to purchase the book someone should say, "If you're interested in helping to heal the social fabric around grief and loss, you should buy this book."
The expression stayed with me. It seemed to put into words what had happened for my family and I through the years we were dealing with the illness and death of my best friend, and two of my three adult children. Communities of people
|Performing the Book |
came forward to enfold and support us, to help hold the corners of the floating mantle of grief we danced under. Friends took their vacations to be with my daughter during her treatments, work colleagues visited my son during his hospital stays. Neighbors and members of the church community took turns delivering food to the house of my young grandchildren throughout the years their mother was ill. And now, when I am sharing the book by reading and performing its larger themes, it feels especially satisfying to have other people's stories connect with mine. Stories that until now, we may have not had much occasion or opportunity to tell.
What would it look like,
if the social fabric around grief and loss were healed?
In addition to the practices of generous Midwesterners mentioned above, we might adopt rituals and practices from other cultures,
ones that view life and death as all of one piece. We might, as in African traditions, begin our gatherings honoring our ancestors, reminding ourselves of the people upon whose shoulders we now stand. When community gatherings begin with this practice, we are reminded that someday we will be the ancestors and others will be honoring us.
We might borrow some elements from the Mexican celebration of Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, where children
The Day of the Dead
create altars asking that the spirits of dead children come to play. And people visit the graves of their deceased relatives, bringing flowers, prayers, and stories filled with funny antidotes passed down through generations.
We could then stop living our lives in a frenzied effort to denial death, using drugs and alcohol, overwork and shopping, greed and competition, to distract ourselves from the most certain event in each of our futures. And once these distractions are gone we would be free to savor our relationships with one another in each present moment.