Grief and WaterPosted: January 23, 2013
As I look back, grief for me involved a lot of water.
Tears, you’d think, of course, tears, there were lots of tears. I cried every day for a year and a half, maybe two years. I don’t remember how long. But eventually there came a day when I didn’t cry, and when I realized it, I cried because I hadn’t cried that day.
Three weeks after Charlie died, my friends and I drove out to Leiper’s Fork, an upscale artist community a few miles southwest of Franklin. We ate lunch at The Back Porch, and we all had homemade cake for dessert. Then we trolled through antique shops, went to an art gallery, and visited a bookstore with a collection of old books.
The owner of the bookstore told us about a party she was going to that evening—a Creek Party. Somebody was having a birthday party, the big 5-0, and they were having the party in the creek behind the house across from the bookstore.
“Come on,” the owner said. “I’ll show you.” She took us over there where they were setting up, and we stood on the deck at the back of the house and looked down through the trees at the creek. In the middle of the brown water was a long table covered with a white tablecloth hanging down in the water, candelabra sitting on top. There were chairs and small tables and other pieces of furniture in the middle of the creek. “Sometimes they’ll put a bed out in the water,” she said, “and people will lie on it.” All the guests would wade in the creek to get refreshments, sit in the water, recline on floats, sit on the bank. There were candles in the trees, and I could imagine the flickering lights reflecting in the rippling water under a full moon on a summer night.
It made me think that life goes on, like that flowing creek. We stand in it, drink of it, celebrate it, and even as we stand still, it moves on.
Not long after this, I had the urge to do something wild and crazy, something I’d never done before. Grief is like that. You get bogged down and covered up in the sadness and sorrow, and then life sparks in you this match-fire that quenches all that for a moment and makes you want to push out and take a risk.
I bought a kayak. A yellow boat and a yellow paddle to match. My son, his girlfriend, and I went on a five-mile paddle on the Narrows of the Harpeth in Kingston Springs, west of Nashville. It was a peaceful ride, the river was flowing at 79 cfs that day, and there were some riffles. Lots of shade, rope swings along the bank, beachy areas, turtles sunning, high rocky cliffs—and the sound of the paddle moving through the water soothed me. I hit some rocky areas and once, the current pushed me to the bank, but I got the hang of it and moved straight down that river looking for the V and following the current. I learned to turn in circles, and I made it through the rough waters.
My skills and negotiating helped me to get there. Water taught me a lot.