Grief: My Uninvited Guest

I’m not going to lie to you, friends. As fun as Szaba’s 2-year birthday was, it was also … hard.

At year 1, we didn’t have Sue. At year 2, we didn’t have Shirley.

Perhaps unwisely, I hadn’t accounted for an appearance by Grief, my uninvited guest. I guess I was so deep in planning mode I hadn’t allowed myself the time and space to acknowledge the full bouquet of emotions this confluence of events might entail.

Then on the morning of Szaba’s party, I was blindsided on my way to pick up icing tips for the cake (particularly for a special mini cake that I would decorate in the tradition of Sue and Sue’s father).

There was some fun song on the radio, the sun was shining, Szaba was babbling in the backseat, and I felt an overwhelming wave of joy. Then riding behind that wave, to my shock, came an intense undertow of longing and sorrow.

I fought back the tears and shook it off as Szaba and I ran our errands and went to pick up flowers at the market. When I got home, I fed Szaba lunch and put her down for a nap, while I continued party preparations.

I took a moment to do something I love to do: arrange the flowers. And that’s when the tears came. In that quiet moment alone, the emotions could no longer be held at bay.

I wept for the two guest who wouldn’t be at this birthday party, nor any future birthday parties. I wept for two incredible matriarchs and hostesses who had passed so much on to me as about the importance of treating your kids, family, and friends to a full-scale event, complete with special touches that let everyone know how much you care.

That’s what I was doing now. For Szaba. For my guests. But with these flowers especially, for Sue, Shirley, and all they had done for me.

Of course, I had way too much to do to let the grief stop me, so I literally worked through it. Imagine my husband’s surprise when he found me crying while cleaning the toilet. With a look of half amusement, half concern, he raised an eyebrow. “Is it really that bad?”

No, it wasn’t really that bad. It was and is part of the journey of grief. Times of immense joy are the favorite stomping grounds of memories. And though those memories may be sad and will often bring tears for years to come, I’m eternally grateful that I have them.

And at every party from now on, there will be flowers and my own personal moment of remembrance for two of the greatest women, mothers, and hostesses I’ve ever had the intense privilege to know.

And there will be parties, Sue and Shirley. Oh, how there will be parties! And you’ll be there in my heart at every single one.

What have been your unexpected moments of grief? How did you cope with them?

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9 thoughts on “Grief: My Uninvited Guest

  1. So many times have fought that wave of grief for Sue, my brother-in-law Mike, my mother and my dad, my step-mom. It’s bitter-sweet. My errands take me past the assisted living that I found for dad; bought furniture for, envisioned him being there and going over for happy hours. Sometimes I just turn my head away…but then I find myself sneeking a peek out of the corner of my eye! Isn’t that funny/silly? Sneeking a peek into what could have been! We are so lucky we had people in our lives that make us feel this way. Sadder is to never have had. A saying we found amongst my mom’s papers: “The real measure of success is something you can’t spend. It’s the way your child describes you when talking to a friend.” Have a happy week, Angela. I am enjoying your writings, though I don’t always respond.

    Lots of love and hugs.

  2. Angela – You really have a way with words. You had me shedding a few tears as well. I agree totally with your description of grief and happiness. Just when it seems you can’t handle it one minute longer, something happens to make you smile.

    1. It appears you are the one with a way with words, Mae. “Just when it seems you can’t handle it one minute longer, something happens to make you smile.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. And I must admit there’s a tiny, hopelessly irrational part of me that likes to think Sue has something to do with flipping the switch to make that smile happen.

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