My summer is done. School has started, my lack of class attendance notwithstanding. I began to look back over my summer with my wife. "Wow, I didn't do anything."
"Sure you did. You went on your hiking trip, you....." my wife tried to reassure me. But no, compared to last summer, I did very little by conventional measures. To an outsider's eyes, it would appear that I sat and watched the grass grow all the while drinking a beer or three. My wife became a little concerned at times. There's a very fine, thin line between working through grief and wallowing in it. And indeed, I did watch the grass grow. I watched the bees buzz, the butterflies flutter by, and the birds sing, all the while drinking a beer or three. And all the while, I pondered much about life and it's counterpart death. I now truly understand what it means to 'work through grief.'
Knowing my time was short, I now intimately know what intense grief work requires. I read deeply and richly about the process of dying and living. Psychology, religion, medicine, classic literature, personal narrative - not content with any one viewpoint, I asked the meaning of dying and living from a number of authors and thinkers and doctors. I thought and thunk and wrote and pondered and meditated and cried and lashed out in anger. Dissecting a tornado, really. My own son commented the other day to my wife only half jokingly, "well I can't believe dad's memory, you know his brain ain't all here lately." So did it help? At first, I was not sure. After all, I often still feel like shit. But grief work isn't necessarily about feeling better. And so after sorting through some more issues surrounding the impending struggle of my dad, I can now say it absolutely helped. Will I have more emotions to sort through during school? Absolutely. I am not so naive to thinking my grieving process done, nevermind the stresses of my dad's battle and my own school (med school is a wee bit stressful in its own right, even if I don't portray that). Far from it. It's not even been three months yet since my brother died. A minimum of two years for a major loss like this sayeth every single book I read, be it from a layperson or grief counselor. But I feel like I am better prepared and armed to process those feelings as they come.
So today, even though school has started, I trust my soul's intuition and extract one extra day of summer - to sit and watch the grass grow while drinking a beer or three and pondering the meaning of life. I've earned the right to do that. And even if I haven't, oh well, experience has taught me that I will do just fine with school anyways.