Today, I’m thinking about Faith. This past September, I was driving home when my mother called and I picked up the phone and said, “What, Mama?” and she said, “Faith’s been murdered.” She sobbed, and I said, “What? What?” because I didn’t want to believe it. “Faith,” she said. “Someone’s murdered Faith.”
The last few times I talked to Faith, it was through conversations with my mother. Mama had her on speaker phone, and we would say hello to each other, and it was like reaching out to an aunt you didn’t see often. Faith was my mother’s best friend, and to me, she was that crazy aunt who lived in a trailer and had cats. I loved her, and Mama loved her. When we met her, she was floating down the Branch Creek in Telford in a kayak, and I was maybe 10 or 12.
Faith was murdered on September 6, 2016, and shortly thereafter, I found a kitten outside my house and named him Faith.
And the last few weeks, paperwork has been on my mind. Death always causes so much paperwork for the living. I have finally received notice that I am finished with the paperwork for my cousin, and I’m only now finishing up with the paperwork for my brother Miles.
Every few weeks, I break down. Within a short period, I had to handle the details and final arrangements of my brother’s death, and my cousin’s. Gregg’s ashes sit on his dresser in Palm Bay, and Miles’s sit on my dresser in Jensen Beach.
In the midst of that, two good friends have died suddenly (one less than two months ago) and most recently, another cousin, as of just a few weeks ago.
So, it’s understandable that I weep. But, just as recently, I was told that I was being self-important. Holding on when I should be letting go.
Who measures grief? Not I, because I know that each person’s journey is different. Grief is a personal experience that cannot be judged. If I recall Albert Camus’s The Stranger, the main character in the novel did not weep at his mother’s funeral. He was judged for this.
Everyone is different, and everyone’s grief journey is therefore different.
One day, when my cousin Gregg was still with me, he told me that he was sick. I did not want to believe that it could be terminal. I wanted to believe he could get better, and so I held on to that faith. When I shed tears, he put his hand on my shoulder and he said, “Hey. I asked you to do this because I know you can handle it.”
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I can handle it. I can handle it.”
“Scatter my ashes in the mountains in Pennsylvania,” he said.
“Where?” I asked. “Should I hike the Appalachian Trail?”
“Sure, whatever,” he said.
Gregg used to drive a truck at the quarry where Faith worked. When Faith was murdered, Mama said, “Faith couldn’t stand Gregg. She said he was a pain in the ass.”
Whatever you do, never judge another’s grief. Never belittle it, either. I never want to hear the phrase “They’re in a better place,” because as far as I’m concerned, “a better place” would be here with me.
It’s different when someone’s old– 85, 90. Then it’s time, and I understand. But when someone’s young, and things like sudden death, suicide, or murder intervene, I take issue with that.
Faith Price the cat jumps up on the kitchen table every day and knocks things to the floor. “Faith!” I shout. “Naughty boy.”
And then I think of her, my “aunt” Faith, her life stolen from her by an invader who came into her home– into her bedroom –and beat her to death. She was disabled and couldn’t fight back. But I like to think she did her best, because she was tough as hell.
I am permitted my grief. It is not self-important. I will stand up for my feelings, because I am allowed to have them, and I am allowed to voice them.
And with each loving thought I send to those I’ve lost, I reach out, forever and always seeking faith.