Lost & Found

Writing grief: a daughter's loss of her mother

Category: Uncategorized

Elegy

I gather (from a Guardian interview) that poet and foundation director Edward Hirsch, once published Poet’s Glossary. It took a decade to compile and run 700 pages. In the glossary Hirsch defines “elegy” as  “A poem of mortal loss and consolation.” It’s function: “The elegy does the work of mourning,” Hirsch argued, “it allows us to experience mortality. It turns loss into remembrance and it delivers an inheritance. It opens a space for retrospection and drives wordless anguish, wordless torment toward the consolations of verbal articulation and verbal ceremony.”

I guess Lost and Found is my elegy sketchbook, my sheaf of notes and rough drafts. I hope you don’t get splinters, reading this.

Just before, and at a cellular level

I find I need to imagine what happened, inside my mother’s brain. What happened, that took her from us. This is what I imagine.

Just before, at a cellular level:

The silence when the devastation registers. Our interchange has collapsed.

Photo credit: Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake October 17, 1989. Oakland. Support column failure and collapsed upper deck on the Cypress viaduct of Interstate 880. Slide III-5, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 90-547.

Photo credit: Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake October 17, 1989. Oakland. Support column failure and collapsed upper deck on the Cypress viaduct of Interstate 880. Slide III-5, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 90-547.

Without wanting to, I see myself at the brink of each site’s epicentre, hearing the resounding silence that must follow the WORST. All the cuts the silence is a tiny, tinny “oh shit” – a paltry, inadequate phrase because what’s just happened is too enormous, too complex, too enduring for mere words.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge falling into the Puget Sound (1940)

Tacoma Narrows Bridge falling into the Puget Sound (1940)

Tsunami.

Admitting that this is what I see is costly. With the admission comes recrimination. “Those losses were greater than yours. Get over it.” I resist. This isn’t quantitative. An unexpected and irrevocable loss after which I cannot be as I was. A mother is irreplaceable, unique. I was nowhere near the point of thinking my mother might be in jeopardy.