“to be loving is to be open to grief. to be touched by sorrow, even sorrow that is unending. we need not contain grief when we use it as a means to intensify our love for the dead and dying, for those who remain alive.”
― bell hooks, all about love
The scariest thing about falling in love for me has been dealing with the harsh reality that at its’ core love will always result in loss. Our existence is fragile. Every day we leave the house we risk never returning, or changing, or whatever experiences we encounter as we make about our day somehow altering the person we were before we step foot out of our respective homes. But that is no reason to shy away from love and loving. Grief is direct evidence that we have loved beyond explanation. It is proof that every ounce of admiration has been authentic. The unyielding pain as we approach our days without which once was is evidence that we have experienced the greatest expressions of love. We must welcome grief with the same enthusiasm as we welcome love.
I have a confession to make. This year is the first holiday season that I have been excited about since I was nine years old. Christmas at nine years old for me meant happy faces, all my siblings and family members alive and well, trips to Louisiana in the back of my daddy’s truck gazing out the windows hoping to catch glimpses of reindeer flying through the sky and imagining what presents would be under the tree at my grandparents’ house. By the age of ten, I learned that Christmas miracles only happen on television, and that regardless of how many A’s you make on your report card the world is a cruel place that has no qualms about taking your big brother away from you. I cannot remember our holiday celebration the year my brother was murdered. I just remember that was the beginning of my dislike of the holiday season.
As I grew older, I started to notice the direct correlation between sadness and the holidays. Why were people celebrating joy to the world, when so many people in the world were hurting? How could we find reasons to still bring tidings and good cheer when the weight of the world rested heavily on the shoulders of all the Black and brown boys and girls who may not have presents to wake up to, or the ones who may be missing loved ones or being forced to spend their holiday season with people who did not have genuine love for them. The idea of celebrating the season seemed cruel, but I still put on a brave face to face the pomp and circumstance every year just to appease the elders in my family. I took part because of the joy in my grandmother’s face. I accompanied various family members on the painful drive in the country to dutifully leave poinsettias on the graves of those we had lost. That part hurt the most because in my mind it was as if we were forcing sadness upon ourselves by continuing these traditions. I did not like it and it did not make sense. Yet we continued… It was not until we lost my father last year that I finally started to understand why.
Growing up I know I took my parents relationship for granted. They worked, they provided for our well-being, and dedicated most of their time to us. It was not until the last five years of my father’s life that I started to see them as themselves, and to see them as a couple and not just my parents. There was love that existed between them that was separate and independent from the love that they gave my siblings and me. My daddy was the backbone of their relationship. He catered to my mother and gave her almost everything she wanted in his own way. I never had to wonder what romance looked like growing up even though I tried my best to overlook it for the sake of not wanting to see my parents in that light. My mother had boxed chocolates every Valentine’s Day, which seemed like nothing back then as I ate up all the pecan clusters out the box. She also slid wads of cash into her purse after my daddy returned from trips to the racetrack or casino like a proud bookie. Their love was an understated tribute to what worked for them, and it was uniquely theirs. From every bottle of cologne, she bought him so he could smell just like she wanted him to, to every warm shirt she threw on the register at Palais Royal, their love was their love.
The narrative began to shift as he progressed in his illness. The love started to look like hard work. It looked like heartache as she tirelessly cared for him and made sure he stayed hydrated in the days where his mind told him he did not want food or water. It was watching her tuck covers tight around him and still making sure his pillows were fluffed during his final days in the hospital. It was the fear in my mother’s eyes when she realized that he would not be coming home from the hospital. The way she rubbed his hand and whispered I love you even though his eyes were closed, and it hurt too bad to stay any longer having to witness the fragility of life in front of me, and then he left this realm and all we had left was a missing piece of the puzzle that nobody, but Daddy could fill. Then the days kept rolling and we were at our first Christmas without him and being forced to go through the motions because that is what you do, since life is for the living and all that remains for us is the weight of the loss.
Grief is evidence that love once lived here. To truly experience love you must make peace with what love will lead to. You must put forth an effort to shower the people who mean the most to you with as much love as you can and look to your grief as a measurement of how deep that love ran. It took losing my father to truly be able to visualize what real love was, and how I want love to look in my relationship. The hurt is proof that we have the capacity within us to love beyond measure. We must give flowers to not only those who we love but also to those who have pushed our love to the limit when they left us.
Regard of what this time of the year looks like for you it is important that we acknowledge that love is and will be the basis for all that we do. Whether we celebrate Christmas, or Kwanza, or nothing at all love will still be there during the destruction, the pandemic, and the hurt we all experience. Grief is evidence that love once radiated in that space where you feel the void. This season I look forward to making memories with my person, while still finding room to mourn the love that no longer lives here in the physical form. It can be complicated but love and loss must co-exist. It is up to us to move forward with the love. It will all make sense in the end.
Fallon Hamilton, also known as F. Renee Hamilton, is an attorney, author, poet, and intentional writing workshop facilitator living in Houston, Texas. You can find her on Instagram at @notorious_fal or check out her website at www.freneehamilton.com.