Threads

Even on the best of days, sadness and loss can envelope us. Today as I read the Sunday paper, three obituaries stood one on top of the other: a colleague from my former school district, a public official in my small town, and a Facebook friend. It was though they were linked, like crossword puzzle words with interconnecting letters. I don’t think these three people knew each other, but I can’t be sure. We all are joined in some way, either through friends, family, or unique circumstances, just like the colorful patterns on a vintage quilt. What I do know is even though I didn’t really know these individuals, I am connected through thin threads to each one. I feel sorrow for their families. I am sad for their colleagues and students. My heart aches for their close friends. All of these deaths were too soon, too sudden, too poignant.

When grief enters our lives, we often shove it into a corner. “I can’t deal with that right now. I’ll get to it later. I didn’t really know these people so I shouldn’t be grieving.” That is how I have been feeling the past few days. These individuals were significant to the community, to their jobs, to their friends, and to their families. Who am I? I am just a citizen, a casual acquaintance, a friend through social media. Do I have the right to be sad? Am I entitled to feel the loss? 

To find some answers, I returned to Stitches, a book written by Anne Lamott, on what she calls “meaning, hope, and repair.” She writes, “It is easy to sense and embrace meaning when life is on track. When there is a feeling of fullness-having love, goodness, family, work, and maybe God as parts of life-it’s easier to navigate around the sadness that you inevitably stumble across. Life holds beauty, magic and anguish.” But what about when life goes off that track? What happens when the train loses control and tumbles helplessly down the ravine? How do we hold on to hope when death and sadness seem to be around every corner? Lamott writes, “...most of us have figured out that we have to do what’s in front of us and keep doing it...We return calls and library books. We get people water. some of us even pray. Every time we choose the good action or response, the decent, the valuable, it builds, incrementally, to renewal, resurrection, the place of newness, freedom, justice. The equation is: life, death, resurrection, hope.” 

I still don’t have the answers. No one really does. What I can do is accept the sadness, embrace the sorrow, and then go on to do what I do. So I write. I will bake a pie for my nephew. I will attend a baby shower. I will look for joy even on the darkest of days. Anne Lamott writes, “We live stitch by stitch, when we’re lucky.” I am lucky these three individuals were part of the many threads of my life quilt. I thank them all for touching my life through the love of this town, a morning smile, and sweet posts about a beloved cat named Mister.