I have had, like all humans, a few shoulder-shuddering, tears won’t stop coming, days in my life, too. When my fiance broke up with me when I was 21 (Don’t worry, I’ve never regretted it a day, since), when we lost a young friend to brain cancer, when I got on an airplane and left my oldest son in the US to attend college, and most recently, when my brother suddenly died at the age of 57, two years ago.
I was just packing out of Kathmandu at the time, moving to Tunisia. We had two weeks remaining in the school year, two weeks filled with year-end reports, good-bye parties, and final sorting through our belongings. Our son, Gabe, called us from the US late on a Tuesday night, extremely unusual. Grandpa had called to tell him that Uncle Mark had died, but my dad didn’t know how to contact me so my oldest son told me the news.
I had to be on a flight the following night or I wouldn’t be able to get out for three more days, causing me to miss the funeral. I had one day to wrap up five years of my life in Nepal. I motored through on adrenalin, covering the bases, and got myself on an airplane headed to Hong Kong and then on to Vancouver. Mercifully, I fell into an exhausted sleep on the plane and was awakened when the flight crew began serving breakfast, meaning we were just a couple of hours out of Vancouver.
I recognized the grief that insisted this was the moment of its arrival. I started to cry. I started to realize. Oh God, my parents. I started to understand the permanence. Tears poured and took over my body in wracking heaves. I asked one attendant for a napkin and he brought me one. Then he brought me several and then a box as I shuddered and voluntarily wept for my brother.
Sunday was an absolutely perfection of a day in Tunis. After Allan and I went to the gym, we stopped by our corner fruit and vegetable provisioner just around the corner from our house. I assume the family relationship between the men who operate this stand, but there is one man who is always working on weeknights when we swing by and then on weekends there is another man about his age and then a quite older man, wearing an embroidered white prayer cap and those huge, magnified glasses like George Burns. In my mind they are brothers and their father.
When we pulled up, because the day was so delightful, we walked the 100 steps up to the sea and breathed in a few grateful gulps of blue sea air. Then we went in the shop where the dad single-handedly helped us with our purchases, which was unusual. He helps the boys, but doesn’t usually take care of everything. Then I noticed the weekend brother. He was sitting on a fruit crate behind the terraced rack of lettuces. He sat limp, drained, intermittently blotting his eyes with a tissue and sometimes covering his whole face while his shoulders shook. I knew. Maybe for the first time I saw someone from my host country in complete grief. He was unaware of people in the shop. He had that mark of loss and was in utter pain.
I haven’t been able to get him out of my mind and I’m thinking about the Biblical verses about everything having its season. Part of the humanity we all share the world around is that we will all have our day when the sun may be shining gloriously and the world looks like such a beautiful place, but that will be our day to sit and mourn and we won’t care who sees us.