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  • Writer's pictureSteven J. Karaiskos, Ph.D.

A Lion and a Lamb

How March begins for me every year


Today is March 4th. A day in a week, in a month, in a year much like any other. And a day that always needs a bit more of me than many other days of the year. Today, as every March 4th, I jubilantly celebrate the energetic lives of two of the most important people who have touched my life. March 4th is the birthday of my nephew Milo Karaiskos Goudge. March 4th is also the day, 14 years ago, that my David, my love, David Charles Babb, died by suicide. There are some years when I think how queer, maybe even unfair, that “life” would place these two events on one day – the joy of a young life lived tied to the sorrow of young death. I try to, instead, honor each March 4th as a day I can and will always pause to reflect on two souls who I love more than myself. This brings me such joy and much peace.


Grieving is hard and continues to be hard.

The moment, the impact, the intensity of that inconceivable moment when grief smacked you might dissipate but the grieving doesn’t go away, sorry to share. It gets softer, yes, and much less raw. It becomes edible to process, more palatable, maybe, on some days, but never quite digestible. “Move on”, “get over it”, “it’s time” or “isn’t it better yet?” are all phrases I’ve heard. It really ain’t that easy. You learn to find space and time for it by learning balance and integration and grace. And discovering balance and integration and grace takes work and focus and as much time and as much space as the journey needs. If I try to forget the pain of David's death, I might forget how intensely he lived…and loved. If I work to “move on”, I leave his love and his life stranded. David’s life does not deserve to be deserted somewhere. It’s, simply, all a part of me now. If I don’t remember the pain, I don’t remember him - his full life, his full existence that included his silliness, his sway and his bounce, his dreams and his talents, his smile, oh that smile, as well as his struggles and his pain. All of it, including his smile (did I mention his smile?), made him human. And, most importantly to truly move forward and live my life, if I try to forget or move on, then I don’t remember the work I’ve done since his death. I won’t absorb and acknowledge my own growth into, I hope, a more compassionate human. If I don’t allow myself time to massage the permanent scar, I won’t remember how he touched my heart or what I can learn from the wound. I won’t remember the power of the experience and the applicable learning to share with others to guide them through their healing and their growth.


“As long as we remember a person, they're not really gone. Their thoughts, their feelings, their memories, they become a part of us.” - Justin Cronin

There might not be anything specific I can pin down that has actually made it better. I haven’t made sense of most of it though making sense of it is probably not really the point. I have found that living with purpose, in all my senses, and honoring all my emotions has helped. I believe I see people differently and more empathetically, that I listen more intensely, feel deeper with my being, and that I understand how to be absolutely present with each person and each experience. I believe I’m a kinder soul. I am also confident that hope has helped. Hope hasn’t made it better but it has helped. Hope has allowed me a comforting place to feel what I need to feel. Hope has provided a place to continue to aspire and to inspire, to wish and to dream, to anticipate and to yearn, and a place for grace, for myself and for others, while I live, engage, and grieve. And in life, I have Milo (and his brother Cohan, my nieces, and my godchildren too) to help me witness hope and see it as a noun and a verb - a thing and an action. There is nowhere more fragrant or sometimes pungent, nowhere more radiant or poignant to witness hope in all of your senses than to witness it in a young person. They embody hope and clatter forward with each stumble they rise from, each outstretching of their possibility, and each time they reach to seize their life.


The Greek word for hope is “elpis” and it means expectation, trust, and confidence. It comes from the root word “elpo”, which means to anticipate, with pleasure, and to welcome who or what might be next.


Hope.


So, grieving can be hard and, with hope, you can still find joy. You will be sad and frustrated, confused and overwhelmed, and you can still be kind to yourself and others. I guess, in many ways, maybe it does get better though there will also be that scar. There will always be remnants - glorious remnants - and like so many gorgeous and glorious remnants in our world such as the cathedrals of Europe, the ruins of Knossos of Crete, and even the natural wonders of the Grand Canyon, the Amazon, and the hiking trails near me; we must tend to our remnants. Tending to my wound, honoring it, and accepting it, well, at times it still hurts. That hurt reminds me I’m alive, that I’ve lived, that I’ve loved, and that I can love again.


“Goodbyes only hurt because what came before was so special.” - Doctor Who

Tend to your grieving and to your garden. Take care of your glorious remnants as well as nurture the seeds of flowers waiting to blossom.


David at Deception Pass, Whidbey Island, Washington

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