Much of my weekend revolved around conversations that touched on loss and transitions. Letters, phone calls, and books. Both the fiction and non-fiction I have been reading have threads of bereavement…
Some of my book choices were intentionally on the topic and others were accidents. There are no accidents.
One of the non-accidents was Helen MacDonald’s ‘H IS FOR HAWK’. It speaks of belonging, otherness, identity, and the loneliness of grief. What makes it a good read, to me, we witness the protagonist’s development while she deconstructs another book and another author…
All the best stories promote growth or change. What matters aren’t the facts or the sequence of events – what matters is how they moved through you, in you, and around you… What matters, in the end, is how the experience shaped you into something slightly different. Hopefully better. At least wiser.
One of the letters I received this weekend said, “I forget who it was that said, all humans share one thing: their loneliness. Sort of reflects Maya Angelou’s: ‘All the world is an orphan.’ And so we go alone, together.”
“And so we go alone, together.”
Grief – like loneliness, like loss, like bereavement – is an individual pain. However, there is a kind of magic in sharing stories of loss. There is power in bearing witness. We understand that we each must be our own protagonists and walk our own paths – but we long to be seen, heard, acknowledged, witnessed. Remembered.
I tend to think endings can be beautiful – if sad. Perhaps the beauty is in the transience? Like autumn leaves, dried flowers, and sunsets.
So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that I was enchanted by a picturesque end. A broken pencil caught my eye during a neighborhood walk. My throat was a little lump and my eyes a little puddled. I didn’t cry, though. I had to laugh. I laughed because just as I caught sight of the pencil, words [audiobook – quote below] were spoken into my ear.
Words really haunt me. The timing is uncanny. Literature usually shows up to humble me by reminding me that no matter how brilliant the thought, someone has had it first and articulated it more eloquently – or lyrically.
“Here’s a word. Bereavement. Or, Bereaved. Bereft. It’s from the Old English bereafian, meaning ‘to deprive of, take away, seize, rob’. Robbed. Seized. It happens to everyone. But you feel it alone. Shocking loss isn’t to be shared, no matter how hard you try.”
“You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.”
― Helen Macdonald, H Is for Hawk