“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.
Grief isn’t always visible, but 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 darkens the barrels of bumped-up semi-automatics used to blow away fathers, mothers, daughters and sons.
And I know that she will soon push her way through my own door, bringing with her the signature tools of her trade: DVDs of nuclear holocaust, popcorn mixed with ghost peppers and cayenne, a knock-off Stradivarius designed to play tear jerkers by Brahms, Beethoven and Barber. She’ll roll her hair with curlers made from sewing needles and toss the extras on my pillows. And she’ll play her violin until every jay in the neighborhood mimics her mournful notes. But this time I won’t hurry her visit because I’ve finally learned 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.