No good way to grieve

When Sarah was turning forty, I wanted to give her something special. I found exactly what I was looking for:  seven delicate bracelets carved from bone. I sent three to Sarah, but reserved four to wear myself.

Splitting up a gift may sound odd, but it was not without reason. The white circle holds magic for me; a symbol of protection. And seven was our sum:  Sarah had been number three in the crizotinib trial, and I number four. The bracelets were meant to be souvenirs of travel to strange places; amulets of protection and a testament to our common bond.

Several days ago I received an email from Sarah’s husband. It’s been a difficult time for all of them, Michael and the children. He told me that he was wearing Sarah’s bracelet.

There is simply no way to predict the when or why or even how of grieving. Because life must go on, we do as well. Until those moments when an unbearable sadness washes over us and we find ourselves gasping for breath.

I closed my laptop, drew a hot bath, and had a good cry. And then I put on pajamas and got my copy of Sarah’s book of poetry, Tigers at Awhitu. She had written this inscription on the title page:

Tigers at Awhitu003David and Peter got home when I was half way through the book, my face blotchy and tear stained. David brought me some tea, and I read every last poem once again.

Tigers at Awhitu---Auckland University Press

Tigers at Awhitu—Auckland University Press

I know—I understand, that life is not anything close to fair—and yet Sarah’s passing is such an injustice. Nobody should die from lung cancer at the age of forty. I am grateful that we have her poems to hang on to. In July, a second volume titled Gleam will be published; something that Sarah was really looking forward to.

The particular beauty of poetry may well lie in it’s very spareness and ambiguity. The form lends itself to interpretation, and invites the reader in. We connect the dots and complete the suggested narrative, making the meaning very much our own. I am certain I know what Sarah was talking about in her poem Keep moving. For me, it is confirmation that she is still traveling.

Keep moving

I lumber over the land, knees swollen
and knotted like giant kumara roots.
Who is that child so far down below
who reaches out to me? I can barely hear
his cry, he is simply too far away. I trudge
through drying braided rivers, I step
over tussocky brown hills. What do you say,
you small people waving your hands at me
from beside the lake? You think I should stop,
you want to help, the child needs me?
Huh. No, no, the heat is its own desperate cure,
the creaking legs need to keep moving,
the dry earth knows all about me. The child?
Oh yes, I can see him still, I think he’s
getting smaller — isn’t that strange? Maybe
he’ll disappear — meanwhile, I have my eye
on that razor pass through the mountains.
I think I may have been there before.
— —-
Sarah Broom–Tigers at Awhitu

16 responses to “No good way to grieve

  1. Oh, my heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing this. Sarah does keep traveling, and she also lives on in each of us. big hugs.

  2. Marie said it best, I agree. Thinking of you, Linnea.

  3. So sorry Linnea……..I can’t imagine how hard this must be.

  4. grayconnections

    The most difficult part of networking with other lung cancer patients is the pain of losing friends to the beast. I’m sorry for your loss.

    • Yeah, it’s a catch 22, and I have talked at length with my thoracic social worker about how to deal with losing people. I have decided that as difficult as it is (and far too frequent) to quote an old saying, it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.


  5. Beautiful writing- so sorry that your friend has died- her words will live on….

  6. Lung cancer is awful. We feel sad when we lose a friend which I had experience last week. My friend Greg was not 50th yet and he gave me hope when I first got diag in 2010 at a local support group. He also had a young son at age of 5. We only can hold on to our memory of things that we share. Take care Linnea.

    • Joan, I am so sorry about your loss of a friend and I am saddened for his family as well. It is tough, and frightening too sometimes. Hang on to your memories and your hope.


  7. I am sorry. Such a loss is so hard.

  8. Dear Linnea – when I read your original post about Sarah I did not respond. What is there to say when you lose a kindred spirit but I’m sorry. It’s always difficult to say goodbye but especially so when they are young. All we can really do is find joy as often as we can, connect, embrace the good and let go of the no so good. May you find solace in the warm embrace of those you love the most.

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