Grief and A Leaf
Updated: Jul 11, 2019
This is a blog post about a leaf. And how it changed my relationship with my grief.
The story starts about thirty-seven years ago, when my mother died from leukemia, and I did not get to go to her funeral. I don’t remember particularly pitching a fit to go or anything, just that I stayed home and played with my cousin. I am sure that my father believed he was doing what was best-making sure I only had good memories of my mother. But, in retrospect, I believe being allowed to grieve at that time would have been a much healthier way forward.
In my family, we never spoke of my mother after she died. It was a totally off-limits topic of conversation. A heaviness descended upon our home and family, and emotions became an endangered species. As did open, honest communication. As did physical displays of affection. So, I did what many motherless daughters do-I developed one hell of a sarcastic, dark sense of humor, and showed the world that I was resilient and independent and “just fine.”
I wasn’t fine.
Around the time I turned thirty, I decided to visit my mother’s grave on Christmas Eve. Yep, she died on Christmas Eve. I took a bottle of wine, a blanket, and planned to sit and talk with her at her grave. I was really looking forward to facing my grief and starting a new tradition for myself.
And, then I couldn’t find the grave.
You see, I went at dusk, because I didn’t want anyone to see me cry. And dusk turns quickly to night. And, I knew the general section of the cemetery, but not the specific spot. And I walked up and down rows and rows of headstones and couldn’t find my mother’s.
I eventually gave up and went to sit on a bench under a naked tree. The wind was blowing softly and intermittently. I began to hear a fluttering sound. I looked around and up and discovered one leaf still attached to this tree. And every time the wind would gently blow, this leaf would shake and flutter, as if it were begging me to acknowledge its presence. I began to feel that this leaf was there for me to find and it was sending me a message.
I chose to see this leaf as a symbol of my mother telling me, “I see you. I know you are there.” After all the anger and frustration of not finding her grave, this one leaf fluttering gave me so much comfort. I plucked it off the tree, pressed it, and framed it.
And every time I look at it, I hear my mother, “I see you. I know you are there.”