This one, friends, doesn’t have a letter in front of it. This one, since Preston told me to write the hard thing, is the letter just for me.
It is always weeks after you think it will arrive that grief finally, politely, knocks on your door. It isn’t in the moment you make the bed in the house that is emptied or bake dozens of cookies and do the dishes over, and over, worrying that there won’t be enough bowls when the rest of the mourners arrive. It isn’t when you finally lie on the bed at home after the flights, after the funeral, after the tears you knew would come when you realize your engagement ring is the exact color of the suit she was buried in, or when your brothers cry next to you, or when you spend an hour playing around the world in basketball in the concrete driveway even though you can’t move past the first place, because you don’t really know how to play basketball.
But one afternoon, a weekend, when you’ve done the errands and dropped off the dry cleaning, when you’ve had tea and coffee and not worried about the whipped cream you put in the coffee, when you’re settled adding street names and numbers to a spreadsheet for your wedding, and you suddenly realize it: everything she never saw.
You didn’t show her the binder you made, the colors of your bridesmaid dresses or the way your dress fits you, just right. You didn’t show her the ring, in person, you didn’t exclaim the way he holds your hand or how much he loves to cook for you – and you know she would tell you you are lucky and you and your mom, you don’t deserve these men who cook for you. She didn’t know that he makes you laugh, even at yourself, or the way you look in a picture together, or your plans for five children, and how your mother thinks it’ll be all boys.
And you will sit, binder in hand, on your bed and realize with a start that you are getting married and you can’t give her a corsage and you can’t hug her and you can’t take a picture with her, with all the women in all their wedding jewelry all together, those pinterest pictures everyone tags can never be yours.
The shape of grief is ever-moving, the heart is the hammer that molds it, beat by beat, the well-loved driftwood on a beach after winter, shaped by the movement of wave after wave, slowly sanded smooth, gentle, even.
This is the shape of your grief, Hilary: an absence physical as presence, while you bake cookies and organize flights and make the world move in the right times and places, the grief waits for you. It waits for your heartto hammer it smooth again, beat by beat.
The shape of your grief: softening, still.