Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Grief Is Not the Final Act of Love

Remembrance Is the Final Act of Love
Someone dear to me lost her grandmother a few months ago. The day of the memorial service, she said, “Grief is the final act of love.” Grief for a loved one, of course, is an emotion felt only because of the presence of love and the loss of a person we love. So, yes, grief is an act of love. Grief expresses our love for those we have lost. We grieve because someone’s physical presence is no longer a part of our lives. Their voice, their laughter, their faces, and their touch will forever be absent. Grief is a tangible, palpable expression of love for someone we love who has died.
Grief is not, however, the final act of love. I believe that remembrance is the final act of love. In remembering, we continue to love someone. A photo, a video, a thought, a memory of an event that included our loved one—all continue to ignite the spark of love for someone who no longer is with us.
Material objects—things we touch and feel—also are a part of remembering. My child Alexa died on November 2, 1986, from brain cancer. I keep her musical Cookie Monster in the top-left drawer of my dresser. It’s bittersweet, but those times when I take it out, wind the key, and listen to the melody (yes, it still works), I’m reminded of her as a baby. She loved being tucked into bed with her “friends,” Cookie Monster and Big Bird, to snuggle with her through the night. I remember, and I continue to love.
The cracked tile sitting on my desk with Ziggy saying, “Smile . . . God loves you” reminds me of my friend Myrle, who died two years ago. She gave it to me sometime in the mid-1970s. When I look at it, I smile—because I remember she loved me, too, and I remember so many other aspect of her life and how she touched me.
Words, photos, music, and the recollections of family and friends enrich my memories of loved ones and continue to be parts of my final acts of love because through them, I remember. Whenever I hear “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel, I cannot sit still or keep quiet. Once again, I’m in the car with Alexa and we’re rocking out, laughing and singing. Or, we’re watching the goofy “Sledgehammer” video with all the fruits, vegetables, and dancing chickens.
Remembrance as a final act of love means that our love is not final. Even with its elements of sorrow, loss, and regret, remembrance means that love for those we’ve lost has no final act. Through remembrance, we continue to love. Remembrance and the love it perpetuates can move us beyond grief as we remember the joy the person brought to our lives. Our final act of love, then, is not so final after all, because through memoryremembrancewe honor that joy and continue to love.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Getting Naked with Strangers

Getting Naked with Strangers
Awkward as it was, just days ago I realized I had to remove all my clothes in front of a stranger. I suppose I had a choice. It wasn’t a medical situation. Instead it was a day at the beach. It was hot. I had clothes on. My bathing suit was in my beach bag. I didn’t plan on changing in public, but there I was in the public bathroom at Indialantic Beach. The changing area was separate from the toilet stall area, but it had no door. The walls were lined with benches where one could place personal items.
Anyone who thinks I had the option of changing in a stall doesn’t know me. I imagine someone with minimum coordination could do so, but I’m not one of those someones. Had I attempted such a move, my bathing suit, towel, and clothing would have ended up in, on, and around the toilet. Thus, I chose the changing “room.”
Just as I was formulating an impossible plan to disrobe in a modest manner—that is, have nobody see me—a woman entered the room. She stood there going through her bag, and I stood there holding my bathing suit top. I hesitated, and then the heat of the room, and the day, and the fact that people were waiting for me to join them on the beach urged me toward action.
I turned to the woman and said, “I hope it won’t offend you if I change into my bathing suit.”
“Not at all,” she replied. “I was just about to ask if you would be offended if I change out of mine.”
We both laughed and chatted a moment about our efforts to be socially correct. I continued my modest moves until I was wearing my suit and then left the room. I’m not aware if I traumatized anyone by a quick view of my white, flabby, sixty-three-year-old butt. If I did, I imagine they’ll get over it.
One thing I wish our society could get over is the taboo against nudity. I’m not talking public nudity, but being able to make small forays into nudity like being able to change clothes without fearing someone will be offended—or worse.
I will continue to be modest and wish for increased modesty in most aspects of our culture. But modesty is misplaced and misguided when it morphs into the fear of offending or causing consternation by the simple act of putting on a bathing suit or clean, dry clothes in a beach changing room.
For my next beach trip, I will probably take extra care to wear my suit under my clothes, but if I must change in the beach bathroom, I’ll try not to apologize or ask permission. After all, a changing room is for changing—sometimes in more ways than one.