b e d


a teenage boy asked for a ride home. he’s in high school. a friend of a son. he sat in the front.

at the stoplight, i asked how he was. ‘okay’ he answered. then i asked how mom and dad were. i’d met them the year prior, and they were to me the physical and spiritual incarnations of mr. and mrs. santa claus.

he didn’t answer directly but instead said his grandmother passed away the month prior, and that mom and dad, though especially mom, has been busy traveling to and from the state where she lived and died, over six thousand miles away. she’d needed to go through her home and possessions, to face a never-ending question of what to put to rest. that’s my translation of revisiting the loss of a parent that has left behind an unknown number of tangibles to sort through. i haven’t experienced it myself, only been there as a witness for others who have, and the variables and scope of what a child might need to deal with after a parent passes away sometimes requires an indefinite postponement to their grief.

the boy said his mother has been tired, and because she was an older mother, i knew it was an understatement. he also said his grandmother gifted him the bed she’d slept in, that it had arrived the week prior, and had taken six people to get it upstairs to his bedroom. it seemed an especially interesting thing to share, as i sensed it was something more profound than the physical possession of the furniture itself. i didn’t ask further questions because i couldn’t discern the spiritual temperature of a teenage boy that proudly shared having his grandmother’s bed to rest his head each night. i don’t know that kind of grief and didn’t want to devalue it with more words.

most of the experiences i witnessed were by people orphaned in childhood, and who were later presented with the task of either caring for their parent(s) at the end stages of life, or, who were presented with the task of putting them and their estates to rest, and while only one of those tasks has a unpredictable end, the child was asked to see it through until then.

often there weren’t words they could share to capture and explain what they were going through, so standing next to them to offer support, whether physical or spiritual, seemed to be all one could offer. it can be easy to overlook the needs of those who don’t ask outright for help. we can’t look to age or appearance as qualifiers for offering support, neither can we assume someone recognizes their needs enough to ask, or whether asking is even an option they’ve given themselves. orphans have often figured out how to parent themselves such that seeking help often returns them to their own reflection in the mirror. maybe in a perfect world we’d provide support not because we see or sense need, but because we know it exists within all of us, and because we recognize it’s our responsibility to love one another.

though i loved my grandmother, i don’t think i could ever sleep on her bed and find rest, but that’s just me. i’m not particularly eager to keep material things that remind me of those who are no longer here, but then again, maybe words count as material things, and those that feel good and genuine, i tend always to keep. there is something infinite about them that can’t be cared for yet always changes, something alive in them that never dies.

the boys loss led me to consider what words i’d built spiritual furniture with, that i’d want to leave behind, that those i’ve known and loved could rest within. for a while i felt shame at things i’d said or written that i’d not delivered in an envelope of love. i envisioned spiritual chairs breaking and physical bodies falling on floors. i meditated and then felt a sense of regeneration, like that of new lineage infused with new energy.

it was a moment that seemed fluid with the restructuring of my childhood. in some stages, i was like a foster child wanting to appear impervious to the temporal aspects of a home, as i’d felt parented by silence and foundations of inhuman obscurity. it was only a stage, and i realized our spirits have a never-ending supply of material with which to work with, build, and rebuild.

the thought led me to smile, and consider how the boy’s grandmother must have left him with words sturdy enough for him to sleep with, and that what i perceive as grief could very well be joy that i might only recognize from the position of a different bed.


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