“When you love, the world becomes larger.” – Eric Fromm
Some try to placate her by wearing traditional black and whispering kind condolences. Others attempt bribery, offering her cold noodle casseroles, quivering jello and meringue pies shaped like the Dakota Badlands. The orderly even adopt rules, demanding that she depart after thirty days, six months or a year. But Grief ignores traditions, bribes and orders, and if she ever played poker, she would cheat.
When I first met Grief, she was an unwelcome stranger. But she’s become my adopted, even if eccentric, sister. She’ll push her way through my door with her oversized bag and fling the contents on my sofa – DVDs of nuclear holocaust and squealing babies, snacks of cayenne-spiced popcorn and ghost peppers, blood red yoga mats embedded with sewing needles. Her last possession is a knock-off Stradivarius that she uses to play tearjerkers by Brahms, Beethoven and Barber. And by the time she departs, every neighborhood jay can perfectly mimic Adagio for Strings.
Though it’s been several years since Grief last claimed her place on my couch, she’s never far away. I catch her scent as I pass the carcass of a pregnant deer on the highway. I feel her as white supremacists unfurl swastikas and chant “Blood and Soil” on American streets. I watch as her shadow blacks out the neon lights of Vegas leaving fathers, mothers, sons and daughters lost in a storm of raining bullets. And I know that I’ll soon be chosen for another personal visit. But this time I’ll leave my door open. Grief’s earned her place in my family, and I’ve listened to her long enough to hear the beauty of her strings.
Grief, like no other, can strip away the trivial, the mundane and the socially acceptable until nothing remains but the raw and powerful truth of love. She reminds me of all that we have to be grateful for on this tiny blue planet called Earth, and of all that we stand to lose when we trade empathy for indifference, malignant egotism and brutal forms of tribalism. She reminds me that there is only one true remedy for love. And that, to quote Thoreau, is to love more.
And so I begin this blog, For Love of Earth, and dedicate to my friend and former professor Harald Alexander Becker. He was a brilliant, funny and compassionate man who devoted his life to his students. And on the day that he died Grief was waiting for us, suitcase in hand, in her swirling cloud of shattered glass.
Painting by Vincent Van Gogh.