Usually I cry when I touch down in Ireland. This time, I cried as the plane pulled me up and away from it.
France. Turkey. Brexit. America. It’s madness everywhere. So many lives to grieve. This vacation was more like a grievecation. And Ireland is the place where I grieve.
I grieve my father, dead three years. I grieve the land he meant to retire on, the land that my mother sold. At least we got twenty years out of it. “That’s a good chunk of time,” my mother would say.
Now my mother doesn’t say much. Maybe it’s still too soon. But maybe there’s hope - she told the story of the day Dad died to our oldest living friend we have left in Ireland. She told it her way, in the waning light of a farmhouse kitchen with a cup of tea in her hand and a picture of the Virgin Mary hanging behind her.
She told the story out loud - to our friend who understands death - it’s part of life, you see, and when you’re a farmer, when you live with the land, you see cows die when they’re only twelve and you go across the country for a wake mid-week at 10 o’clock at night because that’s just what you do.
She told the story out loud and I think it helped, it was a step anyway. To say it, to say the words, “He died”, to talk about the moment and to remember the feeling of helping her husband take that last boat ride out into the bay with the dolphins.
I grieve my father deeply and invisibly, with a windy day on a rocky beach where the dolphins run, and with a rainy morning filled with crow-birds. I grieve my father and understand that it takes years and years to grieve that loss. And his was a beautiful death, it wasn’t a bombing or a sniper attack or a bus-driven bloodbath - his death was sad but expected. And there is comfort in that.
There is comfort also in remembering the sweetness I experienced this year. This particular twirl on the dance floor was like nothing I’d ever had before. I’m better for it, my heart is better for it, I’m grateful for it. It couldn’t last, and I’ll be ok, of course I will - but still I grieve this ending. To not only sets me up for years of numb and anger and disconnected confusion. No, I’ll take the grief now and let my heart to all its aching, and I’ll let this one float out onto the bay as well, to play with dolphins in the sparkling sunset.
But all the rest of this loss - the worldwide mourning is so much. What can I do, what can I feel about that? All I know are the lessons from the losses that hit me in the gut - a father, a house, a love. All I know is to tell the story, out loud, and to listen to other stories of loss. All I know is to take a good look at the sky by night and the sea by day and to put my heart in a little boat and to go looking for dolphins.
Sarah Elovich is a writer and performer based in Oakland, CA.