Dan Stringer

navigating the convergence of faith, culture and the common good

Grief journal (8 months)

July 20, 2011

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, Eyes —
I wonder if It weighs like Mine —
Or has an Easier size.

– Emily Dickinson (from 561)

Grief is a personal journey, often an isolating one; but it’s also a community. None of us asked to join, but we were selected nonetheless. Whether by war, disease, famine, accidents, homicide or suicide, there are millions of ways to die, and therefore millions of grievers left behind. I’d be curious to find out the percentage of human beings worldwide who have lost a close friend or relative within the last 12 months. What is the ‘grief climate’ in a country like Swaziland where the life expectancy is only 39? Or Angola, where 18% of children die before their first birthday (compared to 0.6% of American babies)?

Like Emily Dickinson, I often “weigh” my grief in comparison with those I meet. Sometimes my situation seems worse, but I’m continually surprised by how many families have lost far more. It could have been so much worse.

We are among the fortunate. We were warned. We had terrific insurance and a capable team of pediatric oncology specialists. We had the luxury of trying everything medically possible to stop the cancer. We had access to resources and support services that made the experience slightly less agonizing. We had the prayers and comfort of friends around the world. We had people to cry with (and still do). We were able to share Vincent’s final days together as a family at home.

I’m just thankful we got to say goodbye.

Vincent had an unforgettable memorial service punctuated by an incredible video presentation capturing a glimmer of what makes him so precious to us. And now we have a peaceful and spacious cemetery site to visit anytime, just a short drive from home. We were there again today, in fact.

I wouldn’t trade my time with Vincent for anything, except maybe for more time with Vincent.