On the very early morning of my aunt's service, I put on my Sunday best, packed up my stuff, loaded it in the car and checked out of the hotel. I headed straight to Chester, and all roads through the untouched downtown led me to my childhood home that I affectionally refer to as 250, its street number.
I found myself rolling up the driveway, but as I saw children I didn't know coming out of the house, reality set in that it had new occupants. And there were no trees, ponds, gardens or clotheslines in the front yard. But there were children playing in the yard, just like we used to as kids.
So, I decided to pull into the bumpy barely paved parking lot of The Cyclone Restaurant across from the house. I started to panic a little. I recall this is a place we were forbidden to ever go as children. My grandmother had actually moonlit there after teaching school for many years but I had never seen anyone of color go inside the restaurant.
So I'm in the lot, and the Cyclone sign that shined through our curtains back in the day is still in tact and still lights up. A reminder that some things just never change, they just look smaller and smaller as we get older, just like 250 does each time I return.
The Gas Station Reunion
Only in Chester can someone walk into a gas station and the person checking you out at the register knows who you are kin to and what brought you to town. That happened to me on my search for my favorite pork rinds before I headed on my ride out to the country. I was greeted with such loving sentiments about my aunt by a perfect stranger at that station, and that happened for the rest of the day with those she knew so well, and whom loved her so much. As the service became packed with people and the family and friends circled around us with loving arms, and so many names were called from the flowers that were given in honor of her life, I was reminded again of who she was, and the healing began.
Fragility is a very real thing for most of us. When we really aren't prepared for something unexpected to happen, suddenly it can come as a shake up to your life's equilibrium. That happened to me and my cousin this week and we handled it in very different ways. I took some things harder than he did, and vice versa. The sudden loss we suffered together, I initially met with a stoic strength as I felt that because I knew that my aunt was getting sicker, I told myself I was actually prepared to lose her. As time went on, and I was faced with more challenges throughout the grieving process, and as family dynamics became tense, I began to lose my strength, and the ability to hold back the deep sadness was washed away by days of teardrops on my pillow, and sleepless nights. But in the end, we made it through like we always have, like brother and sister. We kick in like that when times get hard.
I believe in closure, even though we may not always get to the tightly wrapped up ending of all of life's situations. There have been many doors left open over loss due to lack of communication and resentments. I don't believe all of these things can be instantly resolved. We all have to reach a point where we have to trust that it will be figured out someday, and let it go. I have returned to prayer to get me through it recently. I know that is where my restart lies in life.
Each Day, More Healing, and Quiet
There are things we just can't change. Watching the resistance of aging personalities, including my own, has been enlightening. Healing from a loss of any kind is a process, and will require thoughtfulness in words and actions as we work to get through each day looking for a little more light, through the darkness of shade. Sometimes this requires more quiet, and that takes discipline when emotions run deep, and we are damaged. I'm working on silence and peacefulness during this time, as a means of coping. Sometimes, I think we forget that we aren't the only ones hurting. Everyone has a cross to bear, some heavier to carry than others.
On the ride back from the funeral, I mentioned to my cousin that I sat across from 250 that morning and watched children play like us, and that I got up the nerve to actually park in The Cyclone lot and sit there. He laughed and said, “Sis, I’ve gone to The Cyclone, and the food is pretty good.” I turned to him in a bit of shock, and replied, "You did?' Then the sibling envy set in a little, he always got to me that way and knows it. The limo driver chimed in and said, “Yeah, the chicken alfredo is excellent.” We all laughed at the days we didn’t dare go in or near there.
So, indeed things can change. And it was both a day full of remembrance and that of hope.
"Lest we forget how fragile we are."- Gordon Sumner