Miriam Greenspan On Moving From Grief To Gratitude
Grief is a teacher. It tells us that we are not alone; that we are interconnected; that what connects us also breaks our hearts — which is as it should be. Most people who allow themselves to grieve fully develop an increased sense of gratitude for their own lives. That’s the alchemy: from grief to gratitude. None of us wants to go through these experiences, but they do bring us these gifts.
I’m sitting in a darkened movie theater, watching as Helen Mirren, portraying England’s monarch in The Queen, happens upon the stag the royal family has been hunting. The animal’s so magnificent he brings a lump to my throat. Not a shot has been fired, and already I’m a mess, my tear ducts revving up at the mere suggestion this creature might get hurt.
When I first heard that President George W. Bush would be making an Earth Day speech at Laudholm Farm, a sixteen-hundred-acre nature reserve near my home in Wells, Maine, it seemed as if a tainted bubble of exploitation had descended on the place, something especially unclean and dishonest.
This is the story of my descent into a modern sort of inferno, so I’m going to start the way Dante did back in the day. As our saga opens, I’m pushing forty, about halfway through my life’s journey. I’m not lost in a dark wood; I’m in Oregon, schlepping my suitcase through the Portland airport, where travelers are granted the foolish pleasure of free Internet access.
I was a conscript, like Caroline before me, drafted shortly after her fourteenth birthday when Mom first came up with the idea for a family band. Caroline and I knew better than to reveal the true circumstances of our participation, though I suspected people sensed the truth. I’d seen a documentary about American POWs in Hanoi who’d blinked Morse-code distress signals to the camera, and I sometimes imagined the audience could read the same message of resistance in our faces.