There are times when you know that something will become a snapshot in your memory. A moment of profound clarity that will forever be with you.
When you first hear the news that her son, that baby, that toddler, that gawky teenager, that wonderful, grounded young man, has been taken.
When you walk in the house and see her and feel that moment of relief because she’s there, in the circle of women. Those women, who have all been in many circles with her over the years.
You see how the women grieve. Always touching, tears flowing freely, hands held, hair stroked back. The one who presses a mug of soup into her hand. They sit close, so close the circle is closed.
The men grieve just as deeply. But they hover in the periphery, helpless. This is something they can’t fix. So they wait, and watch their women for the moment there is something they can do. A table to put up for all the food. A fire to be started outside. To step in and hold someone when needed. To talk in low voices out on the porch, to look up at the mountains so no one will see their tears.
Except for the middle child. Now the oldest child. He comes to the circle of women and is enfolded. The youngest, still the youngest, moves through the fringe, seeks solitude, and then they, too, come to the circle.
That moment when she’s talking, and then goes still, her gaze inward. What does she see? That moment when she first felt him move, first knew those cells were her child? His first smile? The last moment she spoke to him, not knowing it was the last?
That moment when they are talking about the need to go to the funeral home to see him. This woman, this strong earth mother, who has rescued strangers from the river, who knows what to expect. And she says, ‘the river was kind to him’.
The river took him for its own, but in the end was kind in its taking.
And now he goes where none of us can yet follow, into river and wind and mountains.
Last night the tiny town lit candles so he could find his way home.
We step forward into a life we never expected, finding a path we don’t want to follow. But we form circles. We hug. We touch. We sob so deep it becomes the moan of the wind. And we never forget.
We just grieve and grieve and grieve into our rivers.