By Janet Reich Elsbach
I am looking for my sister.
They say grief is a bottomless pit but that doesn’t mean you are always falling down into it. Other activities are possible. You can toddle around the perimeter, peering down into it. You can hang off a ledge, partway down, and take in some of the sights. You can just generally pretend, sometimes, that you are moving intentionally.
The next day you may find yourself in a free-fall again, but at least you’ve had that little other experience, where it seemed more like an exercise in free will.
I am looking for my sister everywhere. If I look for her, seek her out, then seeing her can’t take me by surprise, or so goes my crafty thinking.
“I’ll be a bird for you,” she said, right before she died, to our mother. Really, it was a kindness to my mother, who badly needed a rope tossed her way in that still, sacred moment right before the big wave crashed. My sister could not have chosen a better totem, neither for its resonance with my mother, who’s very tuned in to birds, nor for its plain availability. Who goes a day without seeing a bird? Every time you turn your head: there’s a bird! There she is! Oh, so sorry, were you not at that moment wanting to fall down a hole? Yeah, well–here’s your bird.
No birds in the grocery store. Safe in there. Except up the produce aisle comes a person who has not heard, somehow, after all this time, and who booms out his question: “is your crazy sister still riding horses?” He turns to his friend. “Endurance rider! A hundred miles—OUCH, right? Ha, Ha. Ha.” And I just have to pretend the broccoli is birds until that little humorous moment blows past, and then feel bad—for some reason I must feel bad—when I have to break the news that she is possibly still riding horses, depending on your belief system; most days I hope so and some days I am full of doubt. Continue Reading…