Grief Takes Up a Lot of Heart Real Estate

Posted on September 20, 2013 at 12:05 AM

Yes, I grasped when the doctor assessed, "Your brother has the fastest growing cancer that we have identified to date."  I understand the word  fast.  And fastest.  I am familiar with cancer around the edges of it.  To take those cognitive grasps and turn them into experiences has been a roller coaster ride. 

Yesterday I tool a ride on Seattle's largest Ferris Wheel.  It motors you out over the  Puget Sound.  It gives the sense of being suspended with nothing really to hold to.  My riding companion and I laughed with the attendant seated us and said, "Here's the red button you push if you want to get out."  One platform.  A whole huge rotation.  WHERE you gonna go if you want to get out?  I laughed a little too long.  It was the tip off to my friend. "Eleanor Roosevelt suggests that you should do one thing every day that scares you.  Today - this is my one thing."

But, that wasn't entirely true.  That my brother is thousands of miles away from me facing the journey to death's door.  And I'm not there. When I tell the un-re-framed truth, that scares me.  He falls.  He is still alone a lot.  He burned up his microwave.  These things don't unsettle me. Disturb me. Concern me.  They scare me.  They scare me for him.  That it won't be the cancer that "gets him" but some unfortunate accident.  That he could unintentionally bring harm to another.  I was there for two weeks.  He's proud of that.  He tells people in his 12-step group that I saw him when he "looked good and could do stuff."  He is  glad I can't see him now.

I have faced dire circumstances myself.  And it surprises me that I find  courage and bravery more accessible on my own behalf. It's harder to access, reach and hold on behalf of my brother.    So much, pretty much, 97% of "what I can do" has already been done.  Now 100% of my job is to love him, call him and be available to the professional  team that is in place to care for him. 

This is the way of process.  Ease and confidence and certainty visit on a pendulum swing.  And when the pendulum swings it swings to discomfort, being scare and uncertainty. 

My brother faces his own mortality with a television-style clock ticking in the upper corner of his daily view.  And I face my profound awe at circumstances that are completely out of my control.  I get to connect to that which I do govern: the clarity, the love, the support, the sharing of the journey.  Doing what I can.  Where I can.  And yesterday I did that in four rotations  of a giant Ferris Wheel to remind me that even the things that scare me have a landing point.  There is a red button.  There is a platform.  And there is often a travel companion who will laugh and tell stories when they see the beads of sweat starting to form on your  upper lip.   

So my brother's friend helped him dressed.  As he answered my call he told he'd already fallen once today, but he was okay.  And he was getting ready to get a ride to his 12-step program.  Which dependly reminds him that he lives as all of us live, one moment, one day at a time. So as I consider the real estate that grief is taking up in my daily life... it comes down to love, friends and a ferris wheel. One day at a time.

(Addendum)  And the midst...I committed to opening Susan Piver's email from the Open Heart Mediation project.  And I let her guide me in a meditation.  One day at a time - leaning forward into this day with grace.  I remembered my ease.  It's always with me...sometimes I forget to look.  xo

mary anne radmacher

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