Healing, like grief, comes in waves

I have avoided Orlando for four years. In my most honest places, that is what’s whispered to me as we pull in and see a small figure waiting for us in the doorway: that of my 94-year-old grandmother, Catherine. She is smaller than I remember, frailer too, but she still gives the best hugs: the kind where her hands run up and down your back, making a final squeeze near your shoulder blades. The kind that give you enough time to take in her scent: Swiss lotion mixed with a hint of Neutrogena.

The house remains the same: the kitchen linoleum still feels tacky beneath my bare feet, the pictures lining the shelves and walls are in precisely the same place, the back bathroom still smells of Dove soap.

Four years ago we were here and found out we were expecting for the second time. The first hadn’t ended well, but we were hopeful despite. I remembered the wee hours of that July morning, waiting for EPT to confirm what my heart already had. I remembered our walk afterward, talking about how everything would change. How the blessing of that sacred knowledge would remain Ours until the right time.

How the right time never came.

How it has never come.

I had looked Brazil in the face, thanked her and scorned her for all she gave and took. But I hadn’t done so here. I hadn’t traced the lines of rooms where I’d been so happy before being so sad. I hadn’t wanted to. I wasn’t ready to. Until now.

Maybe Grandma knew. Maybe she knew that grief had pushed me away. But healing had brought me back. And I was reminded then how both come in waves: some that roar and crash into your deepest places, others that touch so softly, you barely realize they’re even there.

On our third day together, Grandma mentioned the two things she’d like to do before she dies: see the ocean and visit the cemetery where my aunt and grandfather are buried. R and I had planned to make the trip to Daytona to do the same, so I told her we’d take her. The next morning she told me she thought she’d stay behind. She gave reasons, reasons similar to the ones I’d told myself during my four years away. And I knew what was happening. The waves were crashing in. She knew it. And so did I.

I told her we’d be there with her, that God had given us a beautiful day, and that we’d understand if she decided to stay. But she didn’t; thirty minutes later we were heading to Ormond Beach with Grandma in tow. I had forgotten the palms on I-4 East, the lush green peppering both sides. I had forgotten Atlantic Avenue’s concrete jungle and the number 1015, where my grandparents’ motel, The Holiday Shores, had stood. And I’d forgotten the exact spot of the graves, but found them after walking a familiar path: two rows in and toward the middle.

R and Grandma at the cemetery.

R and Grandma at the cemetery.

Grandma had chatted the whole way down. She told us how she’d been so mad after hearing the news that Grandpa Paul had bought a yacht, that she’d driven 90 miles an hour all the way home. “The Good Lord got us there safely,” she’d said. And I knew she believed it. When we crossed the Halifax River, she told us that’s where she’d learned to fly a seaplane. She was pregnant at the time, but Grandpa Paul has insisted, growing belly and all. She told us about his sit-down with Norman Brinker and the subsequent opening of their very first Steak and Ale restaurant. And then, in the hush of the cemetery, she told us about my grandfather’s last days. How her last words to him were, “Are you feeling okay, Chuck?” And how he fell over afterward, right there at the breakfast table. “I think he knew it was coming,” she said. “He knew.”

Grandma and I.

Grandma and I.

We were quiet then: R and Grandma in front of Grandpa Paul’s grave, me in front of Aunt Kathy’s. And I felt a surge of emotion so strong, I began to cry: for them (All of them) and for us left behind. I cried for my aunt, who was only 18 when she passed. I cried for her life, short-lived. For those who truly knew her, like Mom. And those who’d longed to, like me. I cried. One hand on my heart, the other on her grave. One hand saying goodbye, the other a heartfelt hello.

On the way back to Orlando, Grandma talked about Aunt Kathy. How she’d wanted that car so badly. How her girlfriend had had one. How Grandpa Paul went to Miami to get it. How it was a surprise. And how that morning, my Aunt’s last morning, she’d left Grandma a note, which read: “I took some change from the cupboard, Mom.” She’d signed it, “The Brat,” a name she called herself. A name that, looking at my Grandma, I knew had not and will not be forgotten.

The waves of grief and healing come. I relearned this with Grandma. Sometimes one is pushed by the other. Sometimes they arrive in tandem. But always, always, they come.

Those four days with my grandmother were sacred. We shared and rode the waves together, whether she knew it or not. She helped me remember that one does reach the other side of grief. And that the other side is written with gratefulness for what was had, not bitterness for what was lost.

Thank you, Grandma.

For your time. For your lesson.
And for your love.

Our hands

Our hands.

  One thought on “Healing, like grief, comes in waves

  1. August 30, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    How poignant and touching

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      Thank you so much for reading.
      I Am touched.

      With heart,
      Dani

  2. August 30, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Brilliant Post! Every word from the start to the end seemed honest and reflective. Reminded of my grandma, beautiful lady till her last.

    “And that the other side is written with gratefulness for what was had, not bitterness for what was lost.” Loved this line like crazy. Hats Off!

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      What a beautiful comment.
      All my deepest thanks for it…and for you.

      Blessings,
      Dani

      • September 2, 2014 at 4:11 pm

        My pleasure, and many thanks for the blessings.

        • September 2, 2014 at 4:15 pm

          Anytime, sweetie.
          Any. time.

  3. August 30, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Dani, this speaks to me today. My grandpa passed away last November and every time I’m around my grandma, I have this bizarre urge to blurt out, “How’s grandpa?” The two of them are so connected in my heart that my mind hasn’t been able to accept them being apart. Because of this crazy fear that I’m going to say something stupid, I haven’t wanted to bring him up at all. A couple of weeks ago, I finally built up the courage to talk to her about him and we shared how much we miss him. It’s one thing to feel grief ourselves but it takes so much more to hold space for someone else’s. Beautiful, beautiful post.

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      Beautiful, just beautiful, Karen:

      “It’s one thing to feel grief ourselves but it takes so much more to hold space for someone else’s.”

      I’m so glad you were able to walk that emotional tightrope toward her and share, in joy, For him.

      Fear makes us do unheartly (totally made that up, but it should be a word 😉 ) things. Everyone needs someone to be a mooring rope, holding them to the shore, And the oars that glaze the currents of triumph and tender defeat.

      I’m so glad you’ve been able to be both to her.
      May you continue to, Friend.
      May you continue to.

      With love and blessings,
      Dani

  4. JGP
    August 30, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Very nice, Im glad you did not use, “oozes”. Uncle J

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      I thought I could squeeze it in there, Uncle Jim, but No.
      Not this time.
      Maybe the next.

      Love (Yes, I actually do),
      Me

  5. August 30, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Dani, mine is only one of so many hearts that have been deeply touched or will be by this magnificent essay! I think often that the difference between us is that, “I write because there are things i want to say,” and “You write because you are in your heart and soul a writer!” Both are good reasons, and I appreciate the difference. I learn so much from reading your work, and I am very grateful to you!

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      Stephen, you continue to breathe into my places of questioning and doubt. Thank you for being steadfast and true. And truly…in complimenting my writing please don’t diminish the power or purpose of your own. We have different styles and motivations, but we are both trying to extend our hands in love and kindness and hoping that others, in the most distant of places, will reach back. That is what art does. And we Both do that, Friend.

      We both do.

      With heart and friendship,
      Dani

  6. August 30, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    This post touches my heart. I always had my grandma with me, and she’s always been my support, my confident, and the smartest person with whom I could talk.
    She’s 90 now, and she’s always the same energic woma I knew when I was a kid. Everytime I love her, even when she talks for hours without stopping… my grandpa passed away in 2007 after a painful illness… he was amazing. He survived Nazi’s concentration camp, and he managed to walk home (in Italy) by walking. He taught me to read and write before I went to school, and he has always looked after me. I miss him.
    Thanks for posting, it was so touching and deep Thank you

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      Oh, Erik, what love you have for your grandparents. And how they’ve blessed you so. I am truly thankful for your beautiful comment and for your allowing me to peer into your life and “see’ their influences on you.

      They sound like amazing people.

      I will say a prayer for the three of you today.
      I will.

      With heart,
      Dani

  7. August 30, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Oh, Dani, thank you once more for sharing your heart, so deep and clear. I’d paused in my own reflections on grief to read your post. I felt as if I, too, spent those four days with you and your precious grandmother. That is the beauty of your writing. You offer your gift and step back, your words a bridge to your heart from mine. And to deeper truth and pure emotions, uncluttered by the need to work it all out. Bless you, dear heart sister.

    • August 30, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      Yes Jane…”your words a bridge to your heart from mine…and to deeper truths…”

      Yes.

      • September 2, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      Lovely Jane,

      This blew air, light and truth into my flattened places:

      “You offer your gift and step back…”

      Thank you for recognizing what I try to do…
      Not always succeeding, but always trying.

      With much love,
      Dani

  8. August 30, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    This was a beautiful piece in which your love for your family is so evident with every word.

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      Thank you so much.
      Truly.

  9. August 30, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Heartfelt eloquence. Thank you.

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      No, thank you, Catherine.
      For reading, for commenting…
      and for sharing this journey with me.

      With heart,
      Dani

  10. August 30, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Listen…
    you can hear
    my words in waves
    breaking on your beach
    and celebrating…

    lament at long last left limp
    in clammy depths
    ‘neath the surface of seas
    of blessed forgetfulness
    and chuckling…

    midst the shells and sand swirling,
    rejoicing surf returning resurrected,
    remembered, sanctified by sorrows
    faced and sorted…yielding
    wholeness certain, sure…

    on this shore I break,
    we break,
    on this shore gently
    and joyfully too
    we break…

    on that shore
    that someday shore
    we will unbroken break
    on that shore and in that circle
    by and by…in that circle

    by and by…

    • August 30, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      Wow.

      • August 30, 2014 at 7:17 pm

        Thank you Jane…we are all there, on the beach…and longing by and by

      • September 2, 2014 at 4:59 pm

        I know, right?? She’s truly talented.

    • August 30, 2014 at 11:14 pm

      Lovely expression of the power of the sea. xo

      • August 31, 2014 at 12:13 am

        Thank you!! The sea, the real sea… ❤

      • September 2, 2014 at 5:00 pm

        She is quite amazing, Ginny girl. Quite.

        ❤ D

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:43 pm

      “sanctified by sorrows…
      on this shore I break,
      we break,
      on this shore gently
      and joyfully too
      we break…”

      My gosh, you are a poetess!!
      And this??
      For me? Us??

      I am, in the best of ways, speechless, my Sister in prose, pen, and all things profound.

      Heart,
      Me

  11. August 30, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    There’s so much I’d like to say, but really can’t find the words. What a gift you have and a blessing you must be to all who cross your path. Someday, we need to trade stories–you have so many inside you just bursting to get out and I can’t wait to hear (and cry) over them all. xo

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      I would love to, Michelle.

      So…

      I will look forward to that day, sharing breath and heart, sight and space–stories, lives, hearts…

      In thanksgiving and friendship,
      Dani

  12. August 30, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    This was lovely. You really have a gift with words! ❤

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:48 pm

      Thank you so very much.

      With heart,
      Dani

  13. August 30, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Dani,
    Once again your honesty emerges and touches so many hearts! Love to you on the rest of your trip – and forever! xoxo

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      And love to you for facilitating this Finding. This place, this space is like manna to the starving.

      Thank you for sharing your sacred place with us.

      A million Thank you’s.

      With forever friendship,
      Dani

  14. August 31, 2014 at 2:55 am

    Very touching, Dani. There are times when I feel love, loss and the passing of time in ways that are almost unbearable in the fullness of emotion. You put it into words for me.

    • September 2, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      Oh, Sammy, the written word…So powerful. Both in the depths and on the ladder steps of light.

      You are ever gracious, friend.

      Thank you. Truly.

      With heart,
      Dani

  15. myhopejar
    August 31, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    So beautiful Dani. Hugs ❤

    • September 2, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      Thank you, sweet Jo 🙂

  16. August 31, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Beautiful, Dani. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • September 2, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      Oh, Kitt, thank You for reading and commenting in kind.

      Blessings,
      Dani

      P.S. It is quite fun getting to know you.

      • September 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm

        Yes, it has. I appreciate your kind words, thoughts, and prayers.

  17. georgiakevin
    August 31, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Your poem is absolutely beautiful, very touching and very emotional to read. You are a talented writer.

    • September 2, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Kevin. I think you made your way here via Charissa’s page, yes??

      She is a dear friend and a ridiculously talented poetess.

      I’m please to “meet” you. And thank you kindly for your graciousness in this space.

      With blessings,
      Dani

  18. SS
    September 1, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Beautiful Dani. What a precious few days with your grandmother. I have often taken time to consider the waves of grief, but never the waves of healing. Now that I reflect, of course there have been waves of healing. Thinking about them this way, like grief being the night, and healing being the day, it’s obvious that they always come together, working in perfect harmony. Thanks for illuminating this for me. Xx

    • September 2, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      I’m so glad that you were able to look at things differently, but find that they were there all along. It’s amazing how things work like that, isn’t it??

      I am truly thankful for your comment, sweetie.

      With much heart,
      Dani

      P.S. I just loved this visual, SS:

      “Thinking about them this way, like grief being the night, and healing being the day…”

  19. September 1, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Beautiful.

    • September 2, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Oh, thank you, Katie.

      Blessings,
      Dani

      P.S. Just love your avatar pic 🙂

      • September 3, 2014 at 1:11 am

        You’re welcome… Hahaha! Thank you 🙂

  20. Jenae G
    September 2, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    💞 How gifted you are!

    • September 2, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      And how kind you are.

      Thank you, dear friend.

      Missing you,
      Dani

  21. StephanieJane
    September 2, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    I love this so much. Waves – yes, perfect description of the emotion. What a beautiful post.

    • September 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      Thank you so much, sweetie. It means so much to know that you are there, navigating the waves with me.

      With heart and blessings,
      Dani

      • StephanieJane
        September 2, 2014 at 6:04 pm

  22. September 2, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    I love these lines: “She helped me remember that one does reach the other side of grief. And that the other side is written with gratefulness for what was had, not bitterness for what was lost.”
    So much wisdom and beauty in this post. Thank you – it speaks to me so much today ❤

    • September 7, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      Oh, Alexis. I’m so glad it did, as so much of what you write speaks to me.

      Blessings, sweetie,
      Dani

  23. September 3, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Dani, this opens your heart so beautifully and transparently! I wept when you were graveside, as your words captured and evoked the truth of your journey. Thank you for inviting us to join you…. I am here. 🙂 love, Gracie.

    • September 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      Grace upon grace to know that you are.

      It was a hard day, Gracie, but a blessed one.
      Truly.

      With heart,
      Dani

      • September 10, 2014 at 6:19 pm

        Praying you through as you continue to grieve well! Love, Gracie

  24. September 4, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    One word-precious.

    • September 7, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      With true thanks, LynAn.

      Blessings,
      Dani

  25. September 4, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Absolutely beautiful and such an accurate description of grief. Thank you for sharing this.

    • September 7, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      Thank you for such a lovely comment, Annie.

      With heart,
      Dani

  26. Laura
    September 4, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Dani, I loved learning about this relationship in your life. Love always, L

    • September 7, 2014 at 5:29 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Elle. Both mean more than you know.

      Much love,
      Dani

  27. September 5, 2014 at 8:51 am

    What a beautiful post. I love the picture of your hands.

    • September 7, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      Thank you so much.

      Her hands are quite beautiful, aren’t they??

      With blessings,
      Dani

  28. September 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    She’s got beautiful hands/ fingers at her age. Is that her wedding ring?

    • September 7, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      It’s actually her mother’s wedding ring, Imee. My grandmother lost the family stone out of hers some time ago, and since “you can’t replace a family stone” (her words), she decided to wear her mother’s. I think it’s lovely.

  29. September 5, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    I believe nothing is an accident in this world, as well as your grandma’s long life, a purpose to share her healing with you. Lovely, lovely, post!

    • September 7, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      Much agreed, Imee. I am lucky to have her and to have surfed the waves of healing with her.

      With heart and blessings,
      Dani

      P.S. My deepest thanks for reading and commenting.

  30. Sherry Beren
    September 7, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    The hand picture is just priceless as are your words. I was lucky enough to have my Grandma until I was 40 years old. My grandfather is now 97. I also had my great grandma until I was 27. I know how lucky I am!

    • September 8, 2014 at 12:06 am

      You truly are, Sherry. Grandma is the last of mine. I never met my grandfather Paul and my paternal grandparents passed when I was in my early 20s.

      I’m thaknkful that grandma and I have gotten closer as I’ve aged. She truly is a special woman.

      Love to you, friend.
      And thank you for reading.

      Squeezes,
      Dani

  31. September 25, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    I stumbled upon your blog and was transported and inspired by your writing. Quite deep and thought provoking!

    I am sorry for your losses, and for your grandma’s too. Glad you both have the richness of each other.

    • December 13, 2020 at 2:32 am

      Thank you for your visit and kindness, Sarah. And so sorry I am just now relying 😦

  32. October 14, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Love this. So much.

    • October 14, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I’m humbled it resonated with you.

      Blessings,
      Dani

  33. December 30, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I remember reading this post a while back. Thank you so much for bringing me back here, Dani. Your words are beautiful and comforting. Blessings to you, my friend. ❤

    • December 30, 2014 at 11:25 am

      To you, Georgette.
      And to the waves.

      With heart,
      Dani

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