What no one ever told me is that when loss soaks in for more than a year, the memories of the person you lost bleed through the time they were here in the flesh. You start to remember them in the moments you were mourning them, which have become distinct memories in themselves.

I think about Hannah now as the little girl I would split the last stick of gum in my pocket with as we walked to the middle school playground around the corner from our house, where we would then swing on impossibly (and arguably dangerously) high swings…

Image by Janeke88 from Pixabay

Warning: While not graphic, this post does contain description of deceased person shortly after their death.

Yesterday, as my mother and I sat in the police station, the detective slowly pushed the manilla folder across the table to us, saying, “We’ve never done anything like this before. We didn’t expect you to come back and want to see this after you’d asked about it in July.” …

Making ourselves brave

I have always said you changed who I am, Hannahbelle, immeasurably and for the better. But, it still feels like a heartlessly cruel punishment that I have to reflect on this, your one-year “anniversary” (what are we supposed to call it?), and not with you.

I like to think I am almost never wrong about people’s natures and so nearly never surprised by what happens. But, you didn’t live to situate yourself in some big house, managing a menagerie of half-trained but full-loved small dogs and finally focusing on makeup for “older women” (for which you had…

Searching

For a long time — for most of my life — I turned over the smooth, round, shadow-grey stones at my feet, hoping I would lift them to find some treasure or fulfillment, or at the very least some small, moving salamander or even larva, underneath. All I found was dark, damp, brown dirt. I was looking for a singular gratification — some idealized, seductive version of Cupid/Psyche love or some item to make me feel…I don’t know…whole, completed, triumphant?

We spend far too much of our lives railing against those we feel have wronged us or not appreciated…

Together and alone

I sit now on the other side of the thorny thicket of the first winter holiday season without my sister and in the cold, unsteady but gently learning hands of a new year and a new decade. That this year is 2020 is not lost on me. 20/20 is hindsight, clarity of vision and hopefully the accompanying foresight gained from reflecting back on what has transpired, lest we are doomed to repeat what we have not learned or understood.

In this new year, we will notch the first anniversary of my sister, Hannah’s, death where we should…

The Gift of the Magi

My 92-year-old grandmother called to tell me she wants to give me the ring she has always worn. Now, before she loses it, she said, but what I heard was: “Now, because I am dying soon.” The ring was her favorite aunt’s, and I’ve never seen her left hand without its dark blue sapphires and diamonds laced in bright filigree. …

Courtesy: Mary Tomolonius

My sister, Hannah, died nine months ago. I am immeasurably changed, but, then, how else would I be? Grief, like time, is always moving. It ambles forward or sideways in its thick, plodding way. Just as decay is inscribed into the building plan of everything fresh, grief — that black, heavy-petaled flower — breaks down and loses its vibrant effects over time. But, then grief reseeds and blooms again.

It’s not as though grief reserves itself for those unfortunate few — those beset with bad luck and empty pockets — or maybe those seemingly deserved few — those ungrateful, vicious…

I used to be half-in/half-out about what happens after we die. Are there spirits? Is there a place? Is there anything? But, seven months after she has died, the more I am forgetting the exact touch of my sister Hannah’s hand and the precise features of her face, the more she remodels into spirit form. Her physical body has been annihilated: it is sitting as literal dust in a bag atop my parents’ sitting room bookcase. So, my remaining mental image of her blends and bleeds into something mushier, warmer and more diffuse. Not one in many decades for brick-and-mortar…

We are the patrons of grief. We bear the burden of loss embroidered into each of our lifetimes. The consolation prize is that no matter how bleak things are or how isolated we feel, we all have experienced some fractal of tenderness in the greater prism of love that also exists in our lives.

I know that it is possible to accept and move in the world with a different understanding of abundance, but if we focus on the inflamed fear that results from great pain, we miss the potential for salubrious progress. There is a way to unpack and…

Tumbling in the unknown

Hannah, my sister, died from a gunshot wound to the heart. The complete answers to how and why exist somewhere, but the reality is that — despite our best efforts — we may never know exactly what precipitated her death. Desolation comes from no answers, from inadequate answers and from the answers we must make up in our minds and submit to ourselves in order to patch the dark, unfamiliar, empty space of loss. We fear lack of resolution. And yet, we also fear conclusions that will be reached. We fear a terminal overhang of the…

Sarah Tomolonius

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