Friday, March 18, 2016


Earlier this week I found myself in Niagara Falls, NY. I was there for work but couldn't be that close to one of the wonders of the world without venturing out to see The Falls. Those words have to be capitalized. The power of all that water tumbling is truly awesome. I stood for a long time on the banks of an island, right near the edge of the falls. If I let my eyes unfocus enough it felt like I was part of the water. The sound was a great and constant roar, with small variations if you listened hard enough. I could feel the solid earth beneath me trembling. It was, frankly, overwhelming. 

At the same time that I was transfixed by The Falls themselves, I kept looking across the water to the walls of the gorge. The Niagara gorge is deep. The river has been running there for a long, long time and has had time to erode many hundreds of feet into the earth. I could see layer upon layer of strata, millions of years visible to me. I was as transfixed by the earth as I was by the water. The sedimentary rock told me of the passage of eons, of gradual or sudden change. The water told me of the inexorable nature of erosion and movement. Each told a story of power and time and enormous shifts not immediately visible.

I saw myself in that stony wall. 

So it is with grief. 

The second anniversary of Kevin's death will be in just over a week, on March 28th. Last year I could barely breath. I went on a trip with his children, my beloved step-children, so we could be together. On the anniversary of his death we walked on the beach, admired the waves, sprinkled some of his ash, cried and laughed. 

These memories were layered onto the memories of the year before when he was dying and the years before that, when he thrived. I remember being astonished by how much had changed and how little. I remember being astonished that I was still upright. It was a story of change and endurance. It was a story of love between partners, parent, child, siblings, friends. 

This year I will spend the anniversary of Kevin's death with my new love, a man who, on the surface is very different from Kevin but in essentials is much the same. I am sure I will cry. I am sure I will laugh. I am sure I will be astonished by how much has changed and how little. I have not stopped loving Kevin, nor will I. I love more now, both the old and the new. I have love layered upon love layered upon love. 

So it is with love. 

This year also finds me preparing for my father's death. He is now in hospice care at home and is very weak. I am writing this from my parents' living room as my father moves slowly in the bedroom, gathering himself for the day to come. I can hear him moving about, slow shifts and pauses, quieter but no less a part of the world than the rush of the water.

It is inevitable that my father's illness and death reminds me of Kevin's. Too, I am reminded of all the ways each of these men have lived. All the ways I have lived. I am reminded of how our lives are layer upon layer of experience, emotion, connection.

I don't like to think life erodes us away, as the water erodes rock. I'd rather think we are slowly exposed and our complexity, all of the things that build us into the wonder that we are, the love and grief and fear and hope, all of these things become astonishing strata that we can look at in awe. Our stories exposed. We are the water and we are the rock.

So it is with life.

(C) 2016 Laura Packer
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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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