25 Nov unexpressed love
I was at a memorial this past weekend to support a lifelong best friend who had to say goodbye to his mother. This being the same friend who just two years ago also, unexpectedly, lost his brother. That is a lot of loss to process within a short period of time, so the mood was particularly poignant. I am not the first to suggest that this beloved friend has had more than his share of life challenges on his journey, and because he is an extraordinarily humble and unmatched stand-up guy, we are all protective of him.
What is it about a funeral that hurts so much? First, of course, is the pain associated with the loss of the person who is physically gone. And, depending on your relationship with that person it can be a devastating moment to be in—to have to publicly acknowledge and face the reality that your loved one is gone. Often though, we go to funerals to support the people left behind and this pain—the pain of seeing someone you love in pain—is what squeezes your heart and cracks open the tears. What is it about that sound? The sound of that emotional quaver in a voice, as they try to contain their emotions enough to speak? The raw vulnerability of that moment is a testament to the bond between the living and the dead, and a responsibility for those in the room to bear witness to someone’s pain. To hold them up in a moment when they can’t do it themselves. It is a visceral manifestation of love.
Pain can be a door that once opened (for whatever reason), allows all the other things you may be struggling with to come pouring out. Losses of those you loved, unresolved pain in your own life, sadness at the relentless march of time and the fear that time is running out, words unspoken or words you wished you could take back. So, is that partly why we come? For the cathartic release of personal emotion that we are all carrying? Do we partly come to funerals for ourselves? To allow ourselves a socially safe moment to stand in our own pain and shed tears? That’s an interesting thought, and of course not the initial reason someone is there, but perhaps a foreseeable certainty that we’ve come to expect, or even need.
Yesterday I watched this clip of actor Andrew Garfield talking about how grief is merely unexpressed love, the love which you ran out of time to give. He was reflecting on the love he had for his mother, who had recently passed. It was beautifully said and it made me cry. Love heals and hurts in a multitude of ways. Sometimes grief catches us off guard and shows up in unexpected places, like I tried to capture in the short story hey man below. I, for one, can’t get through the Christmas carol Silent Night without crying because it is a trigger to a terribly sad memory of a tragic loss from 25 years ago. Something about forcing myself to sing those lyrics opens that door of pain and lets it all rush out. I literally can’t get past the second line. But after the sadness subsides I am reminded of the person lost and all the others I’ve lost along my path and I am inevitably thankful to once again spend time in their company. That is the beauty and transcendence of art. It is a conduit for feelings. Whether music, dance, theatre, words or visuals, art allows us to feel—it opens the door and lets us stand in our pain, in our gratitude, in our disappointments and in our happiness.
So here I remain, sharing my writing and thoughts on this blog because like Andrew, I believe that art sews up our wounds. And, in telling my stories, I am trying to sew up mine.
Here’s the link to download the pdf of hey man from my self-published book keep door closed, Troubadour Creative 2020