My response to grief is to shut down. Then, when I can, to make my own private ritual. Though I did slowly begin to be able to get things done last week, it became apparent that I needed something more for Bro Frank; some sort of concrete line to be drawn in time.
So, after a flurry of e-mails, our neighbors kindly took Lupe for the night, and Paul and I drove all day Friday to a retreat center near Dayton, Ohio, which is run by Bro Frank’s order. There was a viewing, a small private service for family (including us), a funeral mass, final prayers at the cemetery, and a dinner that was carefully stretched from an estimated 40 people to feed 88. Bro’s other long-time friend (also mine, also named Paul) and I had a small part in the mass. These were not my rituals, nor familiar ones, but they were extremely important to Bro. Seeing him off within the community that meant so much to him, who warmly welcomed those of us from all the odd corners of his expansive life, was nothing but good. It was rich, dignified with room for laughter, and loving.
The community put us up overnight, and we left before breakfast to try and outrun a snowstorm. It caught us just as we reached the last leg of the trip, and added a shaky hour to the drive, but we made it. I know that the rest of this process will be ongoing, and now I’m consciously trying first to make myself remain present, then to begin looking outward and forward again.