Once upon a time Delia Ephron wrote a book called Hanging Up, and then her sister Nora produced it into a movie.
It wasn’t a super blockbuster or anything, but it’s one of those movies that I tend to play when it comes on one of the bazillion cable channels, often when it is already in the middle or end of its little guide rectangle. Doesn’t matter, I’ve seen it before. Some people like music in the background of their daily comings and goings, I like movies. And so, it plays along as I write or do photography or some other respectable artistic endeavor.
Or when I’m checking for a sale on the Spanx Bra-llelujah.
You never know.
The movie is about three sisters, and how they are all working together – or not – as their father is dying.
He is imperfect, always was, and in the throws of dementia… at times comically inappropriate and then endearing… and often an outright dick to the doctors and nurses, as well as to the daughter who is putting her life on hold to care for him. He is played, with excellence, by Walter Matthau.
Right now, as I type, he is calling Meg Ryan on the phone, telling her there is no room service in his hotel room (probably because it’s a hospital room), and he wants Chinese food – “Shrimp! RIGHT NOW!”
Oh my Gawd… I am so reminded of the Old Yankee Man when he was in the hospital…. “LISA! IT’S BOB!” (he’d never called himself ‘Bob’ to me). “I’M CALLING YOU BECAUSE I KNOW YOU WILL DO THIS. I WANT YOU TO COME DOWN HERE AND TALK TO THESE PEOPLE!” (It was nearly bedtime and I’d just left him an hour before) “THE GOD DAMN DONKEYS DON’T KNOW WHERE MY BACK CREAM IS. I KNOW YOU KNOW! I WANT YOU TO MEET ME HERE. I’M BY THE PHONE! What? Oh. Okay…. LISA! HERE SOMEONE WANTS TO TALK TO YOU. HE’S THE GOOD ONE. OKAY…”
I spoke to Nurse Dan after that.
And, yep, he was a good one.
Grief is a strange entity. It visits with fathomless sadness and boundless joy and gratitude… it can wrap us in agonizing loneliness even when we are embraced and surrounded by others, and break a seemingly endless streak of tears with hiccups and snorts of laughter.
All in the name of love.
Grief reminds us we have loved.
Humans, dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs… the random tadpole we were sure, this time, would grow into a full-grown frog (hey, that grief is a very real and present thing to a kid!)…
We grieve the thoses and thats which we have lost, and differently each time. And no one, no one, can tell us how to do it. This is one of those human experiences we have to figure out for ourselves, even when we are lucky… when we have people who love us – and who loved them – willing to be with and support and love us through the mists.
So back to the movie…
In the movie, Hanging Up, there is a scene.
Meg Ryan is a mess, and has been lured to sitting down with an older woman – the mother of a doctor, whose car Ryan backs into earlier in the story. The woman is kind, and speaks broken English. She offers Ryan ‘a shoulder or an arm for crying on.’
When Ryan is doing all she can to not acknowledge that she needs someone to lean on, the older woman picks up her coffee cup and says they need to toast, “…to two things.”
“The first, is to your courage.”
“The second… is to your grief.”
I am not in the midst of grief on this day. But there are few people I care about who are. And there are always, each minute, people in the world who are.
There is something in the idea of not knowing how strong we are until we are challenged… or how brave or smart or or or.
I believe we may all be so much more than we know, or think, we are.
And grief challenges us.
So, to all who have lost, and will lose, and are losing… to those I know, and love, and those I’ve yet to meet or may never have the pleasure…
I am toasting your courage to love.
And, because you have loved, and because that is an amazing, wonderful, indescribable gift…
I am toasting your grief.
Thanks for readin’.
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