Wish You Were Here
“I’d given talks for years about how when it comes to grieving, the culture lies—you really do not get over the biggest losses, you don’t pass through grief in any organized way, and it takes years and infinitely more tears than people want to allot you. Yet the gift of grief is incalculable, in giving you back to yourself.”
— Anne Lamott, Stitches
Last week, I was writing at a local coffee shop, sipping coffee, and in the background, a local artist was playing live music. He started singing a rendition of Wish You Were Here, and as he sang tears welled up in my eyes because the song made me think of my step-dad, Mahlon, and I wish he was still here.
Today—June 10, 2018—marks the 6th anniversary of Mahlon’s death and over the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on love, loss, beginnings, and endings. Part of my reflection process included journaling sessions. I also went through my blog archive and reviewed some of the posts I wrote about Mahlon while he was ill and after he died.
Here's a small collection of the essays:
On Butterflies and Serendipity (June 2015)
On the Depth of Loss (November 2014)
On Grief and Notebooks (June 2014)
Missing Mahlon (October 2013)
Unravel Yourself (July 2012)
An Open Letter to My Dad: Into the Light (June 2012)
Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake (March 2012)
Since Mahlon died, I've tried to write various books about loss, resilience, and how grief impacted my life. For example, I wrote a book proposal about resilience and loss in 2013 (which was rejected by dozens of publishers), and I tried to write a memoir about love and loss in 2014. I stopped writing the memoir because the stories were still too raw and painful.
Over the years, I've continued to journal about love, loss, and why it’s important to talk about dying and death. Despite all the writing, a book idea has not gelled, and that's okay. Some topics take longer to compost, and there are also some facets of my life that I'll probably never share in a public forum.
Like Anne Lamott noted in Stitches, I don’t think it’s possible to get over big losses. Writing and photography helped me cope with Mahlon’s death. Yet Missing Mahlon—and the gratitude I feel for our relationship—will never change.
PS: If you’re struggling with grief, illness, or want to learn how to talk about dying and death more openly, I’d suggest exploring the following resources:
1. Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gawande
2. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
3. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
4. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott
Note: The photo above is one of my favorites, and it’s is a little grainy because it’s a photo of a photo of Mahlon and I dancing on my wedding day. It was a special moment snapped by Maureen Campbell a photographer based in Siskiyou County.