For the most part, I’m finished with grief (at least as finished as I will ever be). Still, sometimes grief comes to visit once again, taking me completely by surprise. I was at a Christmas party today (my second one this week! I’m turning into a party animal). It was with people from my exercise group, and we had one of those white elephant gift exchanges where people brought a gift that would be given anonymously to another guest. The presents were all in a pile, and when our number was called, we went to pick out a gift, so the gift I chose wasn’t geared toward me. It was just an unspecified gift from an unnamed giver.
When I opened it, I found a picture frame, which would have been okay, but it was meant as a memorial for someone who had died, and was inscribed with a long tackily sentimental poem/prayer about God taking the person too soon. Tears came to my eyes. I was stunned that someone would give such a gift at Christmas to a stranger, and distressed that I got it. Up until then, it had been a festive afternoon. I was in a small group with a couple of women I knew and two I hadn’t met before but enjoyed talking with. We’d spent a lighthearted couple of hours, and the reminder of my life mate/soul mate’s death at such a time took my breath away.
I showed the women the frame, then set it upside down on the table. A few minutes later I looked at it again, wondering if I had overreacted. But I teared up once more. One of the women took the frame out of my hand and replaced it upside down on the table, saying, “I bet you’re one of those people who pick at sores, too.” We laughed. And there the frame stayed. When I left, one of the women hugged me and said she’d take care of it for me.
If I hadn’t lost someone, it would have been a curiosity, would maybe even have elicited a laugh at such a thoughtless donation. As it is, I not only feel sad that he’s gone, I feel bad that I was such a poor sport. But such are the ways of grief — we don’t always act the way we would want to when reminders of our loss take us unaware.
The best thing about the situation was the caring response from the women I was with, and the laughter they brought to the occasion. Those are truly gifts worth treasuring.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.