The Letters, Year 4


In the fourth year after my aunt’s death, grief took on a new shape. So many things felt like loss to me – the past, and certain changes, the state of the world, some health concerns, and the health of friends who were suffering. In a sense, the love room became even more intimate and intense – it was more part of my everyday life. But it also seemed to shift farther away.

I began to realize that I had to make a choice between continuing to look backward, and turning to face whatever future I might have without my aunt. I didn’t want to lose the love room we had made, but I needed to find ways to be happy.

The following are a few letters from Year 4:


Are all these little letters my way of not letting you go? I want to be with you. I want to hold up the love that cannot fade, even when the person does. So there is this trail I am laying down, this packet of notes: small, rounded pebbles of patience you could travel across if only you would.


I had thought this would end, me waiting for you.


Yesterday was my mom’s death day. Fifteen years now without her. Easier, in some ways, painful in others. Suppose she had lived longer? Suppose I could have seen her as just herself –one feisty, uncertain woman on the curious road of a life? Suppose our hearts had been able to touch – one real mother to one real child? What if I hadn’t been afraid?

I was motherless long before she was gone.

Why is it I could have that touching of hearts with you, and not with my own mom? And now you’re gone. You’re gone, and she is gone, and that’s that.

Suddenly I am sobbing, wrecked. This, the primal loss, has been hiding behind you all the while. Her absence slipped behind yours.

Does that mean I never cared for you? Or were you just the easier door into what needed to well up so I could be free? Easier – though wrenchingly hard – to lose?

In the midst of sobbing tears, I feel your smile. You have held the door open so I could find my way back to this, the original loss.

Why am I surprised?


Another report on the state of the world: weather and climate (definitely changing); islands (in danger of disappearing); fires (many, and out of control); money – who has it (the few) and who doesn’t (most everyone else); greedy power blocking any meaningful change. We barely know what to do, and what we do know seems too much, or not enough at all. In my turbulent storm of grief and aging, and coming to terms with hard things like you being gone, I hadn’t planned on this.

Losing you was one terrible thing. Losing the world? Unthinkable.


Dark night, with hazy new moon.

I miss you – or, rather, I miss missing you. At least before, when the loss was so raw, you felt closer to me.


Last night at a small gathering I talked with a co-worker about the love room and this jumble of letters written over three years. She was curious. She is losing her own parents, bit by bit, as they age. Her eyes gleamed with hope and tears, which made me want to work harder at pulling it together – this chronicle of what it means to love and to come apart, not because you chose to, but because it’s just the way life is: here, and gone. Lately, all I want to do is sit with the bulky, messy packet of notes, capture what it means to pay attention as caring unravels over time, show that these – the thready, silky scraps of leftover love – can be both ragged and good. Enough, when it’s all you have left.


This is what I would talk with you about, if you were here: how to sink into the juicy, jeweled brilliance, the fierce, wrenching fire of loving the world even though everything will be swept away.

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