Shortly after I went to work at the hospice where I am a chaplain, I learned about “grief bursts” from the Bereavement Coordinator. I hadn’t heard the definition but I was familiar with the experience.
After my son, Lew, died and after the numbness, there was a period a time of nearly continual fireworks. Every few moments something reminded me of his death and of the loss of his sweet presence in my world. After awhile the “bursts” of grief began to get further apart. During the first year and a half, I was often – many times a day – stabbed by the pain of my grief. Tears were always close.
It has been thirteen years since Lew died. Grief bursts happen very seldom now. I think of Lew often but now those thoughts most often prompt a smile and thoughts of gratitude that I had him at all. The pain is there but it’s as good as it is going to get.
This week, however, I was surprised by a major grief burst and by what caused it: a weather report! I was aware that Friday of this week was going to be the anniversary of this significant event in my life. I thought I’d be fine. I planned to take the afternoon off work; I had an eye doctor’s appointment and had decided to not go back to the office with my dilated eyes. I often plan something special for February 4th and September 11th – the day Lew died and the day he was born. I thought the doctor’s appointment and a few hours would be enough to honor the day this year. Then I heard two of my co-workers mention that snow was expected on Friday. (WHAM!! Grief Burst!)
The day Lew died is forever associated with snow in my mind. On February 4, 1998 Kentucky experienced the Snow of the Century; eighteen inches fell from east to west shutting the state down. It almost NEVER snows here in central Texas. I often say “If I never see snow again, it will be too soon.” Last year there was a tiny snow storm here; we didn’t expect to see that again for a long time and then today it happened again.
The week Lew died the entire state of Kentucky shut down. The roads and airports were closed. Only emergency transportation was allowed. It seemed right to me that the state stopped. It fit my mourning.
Today Texas took a break. The doctor’s appointment was cancelled; the hospice office was closed. I didn’t even leave the house. I ended up having a special, productive, quiet day including reminders of Lew.
Maybe again life slowed down to honor the memory of my son.
At least it did for me.