In the middle of the near silence, there came the voice of someone who had spoken a million words, someone weary with the weight of years: “Another loss”. And then later, all of us were dumb witnesses to the tiny grandmother I would have called quiet, tough, stoic, climbing up and almost into the casket, kissing her deceased husband’s forehead, and then wailing like a death itself while they closed it, while they moved it out of the funeral home, and most of all while they loaded it into the crypt where it was laid to rest.
Amid this display of raw emotion, the wet eyes all around (even I was moved to dab my eye with a tissue) – I wondered suddenly whether the warm blooded people around me could sense the cool, steely one in their midst, my icy British heritage impossible to hide in this passionate scene, my first Portuguese funeral.
Now I’m sitting in another psychologist’s office, meeting this one for the first time, and wishing I wasn’t here because the psychologist obviously has an eating disorder. She looks like she’s starving and I can’t take mental health support from someone with such a clear need for it herself. Not that psychologists can’t have issues, but really? I’m concerned. In the first two minutes I feel we should call off the meeting and instead try to get her some help. She seems tired, bored. Her office is full of the earthy nomadic things you might expect – a small bongo drum? Layers of woven rugs. Actually this could be a fortune teller’s space (do you call that an office?). Maybe I should be seeing a fortune teller not a psychologist. Maybe I should be back at the mausoleum.
I came here because, because. Because I’m tired and bored too? Because these days my job reminds me of these words by Ani Difranco:
Who’s gonna give a shit, who’s gonna take the call, when you find out that the road ahead is painted on the wall?
Because we made a human and I’m terrified. Because I’m a grown up and I don’t feel like it half the time. Because the future is scaring me more than it’s exciting me.
What happens when people get to this point? Do they see psychologists? Fortune tellers? Have affairs, buy things? Drink wine, go to sleep, disappear?
Now it’s a month later and I didn’t go back to the psychologist, but in the meantime the wall got bombed. I don’t think I can take credit, I think the shroud of morning sickness lifted, and work picked up, and slowly all the bad stuff that needed to happen, happened, and then the good stuff that was coming after the bad stuff, started to come into view. And now I can see the road ahead in three dimensions again, pick up the distant horizon and start to enumerate the choices coming up. The stuff of life.
And now that I’m on the other side of all that, I’m most excited that we’ve created a new life. And that it will be equally part of my family and his, the bridge that binds us with blood, the branches of the tree extending outward. And all at once in the darkness of death, of wailing and despair and feeling lost and inadequate and anemic with humanity, of reaching out to strangers for something like support, there comes our way this blinding burst of sunrise, a vibrant choral salute, another addition, a new life.