The Tsunami

This piece is inspired by a community grief ritual I attended on Orcas Island, back in April. I wrote and performed this piece in Bellingham, WA, just a few days after the ritual.

One of the beauties of a grief ceremony is that grief shows up in all her forms. In each participant, a piece of someone else’s grief.

The parent grieving the child meets the child grieving the parent.

The universality, the shared human experience of grief is laid bare. And there’s a kind of beauty, a kind of symmetry to the thing.

And in each grief ceremony I’ve attended, someone has walked over the threshold with a grief so titanic my breath was stolen from me.

The intuitive little empath in me spots them immediately: A person grayed and freighted by a crushing, ruinous weight. And I quaver and I want to run, because big emotion was never safe for me as a child.

But in the grief ceremony I am not alone.

There are 25 other human beings here. And we’ve all committed to staying with grief, at least for this weekend.

And we 26 human beings are not alone.

We call in mother earth and she is there with us, holding us up, giving us a place to fall.

We call in our ancestors, those wounded survivors, and they cheer us on in the ancient tongues of our homelands.

We call in Source, Great Spirit, God, for all that we simply cannot carry.

And when this hidden mountain of a being, this person dragging a glacier of grief into the room opens their mouth, and from their mouth they say the worst words ever spoken:

My child is dead

My sweetheart is dying

My earth is being ravaged before my eyes

And I quaver, I want to run, but I hold. And so does to the person to my left, and my right.

And instead of no, we say yes.

And we keep our ears open, and our eyes too. And if there’s screaming inside us we let it out, through our open mouths.

And still the tsunami comes, it roars, it towers over us. And the person who carries this wave wilts, shakes, rages, screams, wails.

And a tiny voice in me asks, How can we hold this?

Because there’s no answer to the question asked. Only the fool tries to answer.  Words incinerate before this cataclysm. Spiritual ideas, platitudes, get well cards.

And so the grief engulfs us all, and the waters rise, and I think, surely this is where we all drown. We foolish beings who thought we could hold this on a weekend in April.

And then a drum starts beating, like a solemn heart. And a voice, and another lifts in song. And we hum and we sing and we sway and we cry out.

And rather than fight this wave, we join it.

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