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Death is a Comma

When you lose someone you love, it frightens you. Not just for the loss of them. Your grief opens up the possibility that you will lose everyone you love.

But if everything is process, nothing is broken,
and maybe nothing needs to be fixed.

Rachel Naomi Remen

We humans give tiers to love. Those that are more important, and even most important. We’ve reserved most of the highest tiers for blood, as if we’re all stuck in some atavistic time where we can’t trust anyone in whom our common ancestry doesn’t flow. This retrograde scope of love sets friends at the bottom. That, my friends, is the definition of bullshit.

Do you believe me when I say
you are neither salvaged nor saved
but salved, anointed by gentle hands
where you are most tender?

Lynn Ungar

Grief is its own response, unpredictable and wild. It’s where your heart breaks open and reaches into the world with baby fingers curling in need. How dare I write that line? Because my friend taught me poetry deserves to live in the world tacked onto telephone poles where all going about their daily lives can read it, never having to stop, not even slow down, but consume it and carry it with forward them.

Now is the time to know
that all you do is sacred.


So maybe that’s the real fear of loss: it throws you into the reality of the world, rather than the made-up image we safely fold and tuck into our brains. The loss at death is real, the coming loss of others is real. Forgive me if I can’t approach that with dignity. My embrace of loss is not enlightened philosophy. It is a clawing at the fabric of the world, trying to rend into the place where my friend now exists.

Cleave a piece of wood, I am there; lift up the stone
and you will find me there.

The Gospel According to Thomas

Ultimately, death is a form of grammar, the most misunderstood form. Of course, I refer to the comma. That which indicates a pause, a signal to the reader to take a new breath. Death is not the period of finality we assign to it, nor the exclamation (point) it evokes from us. It is the intake before the leap into the next big thing. As with death, the comma is forever misplaced, misunderstood, mastered only by the masters. And my friend was the master of all commas. Every. Single. One.

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic,
and she said yes.

Kaylin Haught

Rise in peace, Suzanne, you who gave me these lines of poetry in a rolled scroll that refuses to lie flat because, well, poetry. Even more, you gifted me with a (damaged) understanding of the sanctity of the comma, and thus life. My love flies with you.

the lobby at Central Station in Memphis bathed in green and red neon light with its old Yellow Cabs sign
The neon cab waits for us all–take a deep breath and fix your commas before you slide across the plastic seat.

death as a comma, grief, how to deal with grief

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