In June last year, Francesco, myself and two friends embarked on a dream holiday – a 12 night Mediterranean cruise. And on the second night of that cruise I received news that my beloved cousin had died. She was 39 years old.
The shock was almost too much to bear. My immediate reaction was, “No. It’s a mistake. She can’t have died. Maybe there’s a horrible misunderstanding.” But when I called my mom, she confirmed the terrible news. My big sister was gone, and my family urged me to stay where I was, to enjoy my holiday. They said they knew I would be there with them in spirit. I complied with their wishes, and tried to grieve while enjoying my holiday as well. It wasn’t easy, but the shock of her sudden loss helped me dissociate from my emotions so that I could carry on.
In hindsight I wonder if my missing the funeral was a good idea at all. I needed to grieve with my family, but I was too far away, and so, because of the situation, I never fully grieved, I never said goodbye properly. Even when I returned home, the emotions were gone, suppressed, so that even at the first family function I was able to attend, there was no grief, there was no emotions. I could not access my grief.
But today the tears came, and they are still running down my cheeks. I woke up this morning to the soft sound of rain falling. I walked outside, looked up and saw grey skies. And then I thought, ” This is the perfect weather for today. Nature itself is mourning with me as I go to the internment of Zaida’s and Uncle Roy’s ashes.”
We were a small group that gathered around my grandfather’s grave today: Uncle Roy’s wife, two daughters and their families, Zaida’s mom and brother and his family, two of Zaida’s closest friends, an old family friend, an uncle who facilitated the internment and Francesco and I.
And as the rain fell, so did the wall around my heart, the wall that had been built to protect me when I was far away, away from my family, unable to mourn and grieve with them. Today I cried the tears I should have cried last year. As my uncle committed the ashes to the grave, as Zaida’s brother shoveled the soft earth on to the two small boxes containing the last remains of my loved ones, I was finally able to cry with my family, to grieve the loss with them.
I was finally able to say goodbye…