My friend Sam died in motorcycle accident. My Uncle Ron died from complications from stroke. My friend Patty died from ALS. And last week, my friend and former student, Libby, the daughter of one of my closest friends, Kay and Andy Bruner, died. Libby was only 28 and leaves behind her husband and 20 month old daughter.
It’s just awful. And shocking and terrible. One piece of the story is here.
My grief feels awkward and thick and heavy. Because my grieving is really for the grief of my friends and those who knew and loved Libby better than I do. It feels clumsy, this empathy-grief for a of friend and mother and teacher. But I keep thinking about how, when I was just a 28 year old teacher with a 20 month old daughter, there was this silly 16 year old girl named Libby in my English class who laughed the loudest most irrepressible laugh, how she would hug my daughter so tightly, and how she was the brightest light in the room. We lived on the top of a mountain in the jungle back then. Before we flew away from Papua New Guinea, she hugged us so fiercely. And she grew up lovely and married an introverted balding musician just like I did, so I felt a special kinship to her.
Once, a couple years ago, I got Libby out of a pretty bad situation. This was after she was grown up, and she needed some help. I drove up a mountain in the worst fog I’ve ever been in to get her. And I prayed and prayed and prayed that the fog would lift, so I could get to her, and just as I arrived, the fog vanished. We drove away and she was rescued, and it was all fine.
Last week, when I heard she was in another scrape, I just said a quick prayer and assumed she’d be rescued and fine. The fog would lift.
But she died. And now we all go through the grief and the clumsy second-hand grief for those who will feel her loss so acutely.
I wrote this with love and empathy and hope for healing for my beloved Kay, and Libby’s beloved Kevin. And all the Bruners and all my former students whom I treasure deeply.
Grief and Love
Grief with love is a power.
Grief with fear is its foe.
Will holding onto you crush me?
Will it empty me, letting you go?
Will our brilliant love be diminished in time?
Or will its radiance turn to a glow—?
A twinkle, a gesture, a laugh–I recall
Still pushing me yet to hope.
My love and grief swallow me,
Waking me in the night,
Reminding me of its power,
Blinding me with its light.
When will the press lessen?
When will the ache still?
When will the yawning hollow close?
I hope it won’t; I hope it will.
For grief and love are a power,
A fury, a violence, a rage.
To tear the soul from its body
While it’s young, without wrinkle or age.
Grief and love wash over me.
I wallow, I roll, I flail.
I splutter, I gasp, I drowned.
I try to breath, but I fail.
I see you smile. I hear you laugh!
I smell the clothes that you wear.
I feel you gone and I feel you remain.
I know you’re there and not there.
I reach deep into the core of my stomach
My soles, my scalp, my mind—
And your love still prickles each corner
My body still yours—not just mine.
You cannot be lost; you are closer!
Your focused light now diffused,
Touching each shadowy memory
With a rosy cast- I’m amused.
Laughter, denial, anger, shock.
I balance on each breaking wave,
Yet waking empty while feeling so full
This paradox is making me brave.
I could not choose if I let you go,
I only choose how I will let you go,
So I cry and laugh and cry.
If you would like to contribute to the expenses for Libby’s family, please contribute here.