Listening to a song I first heard a few years ago during a reception for a couple whose wedding I had officiated. Youssou Ndour and Peter Gabriel rocked the joint with their song called Shaking The Tree. It wasn’t until recently that I heard past the catchy lyrics, hand clapping and hip swaying rhythm to the empowering message that all of us; men and women can see beyond societally imposed strictures and become who we choose to be.
I was blessed to have gotten that message overtly from my parents who supported my dreams and sometimes left of center visions , but somehow missed the boat a bit, by attempting to mold myself into an image that I thought others would love and accept. It has taken a great deal of work to maintain a façade of ease and grace when I have felt tossed about by the winds of change. I have clung to a palm tree (which is the image that comes to mind when I think of this song), with gale force currents whipping about.
Today, I was answering preliminary questions for a book for which I am contributing. The topic was surviving in the midst of loss and grief. I looked back at 3 major losses in my life: my husband in 1998, my father in 2008 and my mother in 2010. Each one brought with them different ‘flavors’ of grief and each one taught me about the sustaining power of love, from those on both sides of the veil. I also know that when I didn’t allow for full expression of mourning, however it wanted to show up on any given day, it had an impact on my health. I held on, rather than letting go into it, since I wanted to be able to maintain my persona of the go-to person, ‘the rock’ as my mother was, until I crumbled. Even all these years and several major health crises later, I still don’t feel fully human with permission to cry over these losses. Yes, I can justify my surrender into acceptance of death, since I know they are at peace and immersed in love wherever they are AND I miss them. Michael’s death has melted into memory, more than being an ongoing spectre. I communicate with my parents daily, as they pop into my mind randomly and intentionally. Their presence is a comfort and provides encouragement when I begin to falter. At cardiac care, my father’s coaching “Come on, doll baby, you can do it!” keeps me sweating it out when I want to quit. I hear my mother’s voice in my own expression, which my sister can vouch for.
Grief can knock us loose from our moorings and shake us to our roots. It is up to us to decide if we are going to come down from the tree and plant ourselves in the nurturing soil of love.