A few weeks ago, I took Annie for a bike ride with my camera along the route that I usually run. It was less like a bike ride and more like a photo shoot. Every couple blocks I would say, "Oh I need that picture..." and we would slow down and I would try to get a shot. I finally got out for a run yesterday. A good one. I did not want to go. I wanted to go back to bed. But there is something about the rituals of life that keep us going. If we didn't have them, we wouldn't know what to do in times of crisis. So I swung my legs out of bed, laced on my running shoes, and started out the door. I still didn't feel like running. Someone told me not to run and cry at the same time. It isn't good for you. I wasn't sure I could do it. I started with a walk, then a short run, and before I knew it, I was running past the old familiar houses that are part of my running ritual. The streets whose ruts I know, the trees that shade me from the sun. The ritual of running itself took over and I found peace. I did not cry.
These are all homes in Historic Haddonfield. I use Historic not because it sounds so very proper and all, but because through history we learn about people and what has gone before. I wonder about the people who lived here before us. The lives that unfolded there and the stories they told. These people dealt with death too. And war and sickness. One of the houses I pass belonged to my great-grandmother years ago. I wonder about her and her home. I wonder about how she coped with the same human feelings and emotions, children and family, care of a home, care of herself. I picture her opening a window, making a bed, having a glass of water, tending a garden. The rituals of life that don't change. They keep us going.
We made it through the first holiday without my brother. Fourth of July. Fireworks, parades, flags, barbeque, swimming, God Bless America. It was hard. Harder than I thought. But the ritual kept us going. Another burger. A roasted marshmallow. A piece of watermelon. Comfort food and comfort times.
I know there are stages to accepting a loved one's death. I read Elizabeth Kubler-Ross back in high school. Sometimes I wonder if I think, "It's okay," am I in Denial, or have I gone right to Acceptance? I don't know. I think I'm going through the stages of Life again. Comfort is first stage, the kind you find in a nursery, soft food and Soft Socks. Sustaining Rituals would be second, teaching and passing on our simple activities that make up our days. The ritual of keeping house, making dinner, caring for the kids, working, even writing is becoming a ritual for me. So I go for a run, I put on the coffee, I take a shower with the sweet-smelling shampoo my husband buys - it's a good ritual. I run the dryer, the dishwasher, the vacuum. I have no idea what comes next. I don't even know if these rituals really work for the long term. I only know that I am holding on to them now and they are enough.