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Rant #318
(published February 22, 2007)
by Milton Gray
I'm an NPR junkie. They do a segment sometimes called "This I Believe" where people write an essay about anything they believe in and present it on the air. Yesterday's was a nurse who said that she believed in grief, as in the power of grief to allow us to move on and to grow emotionally. I agree with that wholeheartedly, though I probably would not have 5 years ago.

Maybe it's due to my age, maybe due to having kids, maybe due to all the shit with my Dad, but for whatever reason I find myself to be much more emotional these days. From 1980-2003 I can count the number of times that I cried on my left hand. From 2003 to present I've lost track. I think maybe I didn't have anything to cry about before. Now that I have a lot to lose in this world, with people depending on me for financial and emotional support, the world is more scary, more stressful.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that a good cry lets you know that you've reached the end of your emotional endurance, that it's time to rest, time to be weak for a moment so that you can be strong again for the next few years.

Recently I found an abandoned graveyard at the back of an abandoned airfield here in Pensacola. The most recent grave was 1908 and the site belonged to the Milstead and Nix families (according to the headstones). I feel the loss of any human from this earth and specifically I wondered what these people were like, what did they do? Were they good people? Did they make the world a better place or is the world better off without them? Am I feeling the impact of their lives over 100 years later or did it really not matter that they once lived? In that state of mind I noticed the unmarked graves, some clearly children's. I came to one so tiny that it had to have been an infant and I wanted to know him or her. I wanted to see through the infant's eyes for a moment, know what they knew for the brief instant that they lived. I tried to imagine that infant and suddenly I couldn't stop crying for him or her. I wanted them to know that someone loved them, even if it was just some stranger 100 years after they died. I wanted them to know that they were not forgotten. In my own grief and stress and worry I found compassion at the root, so much compassion that I couldn't contain it and had to cry. As I swept the dead leaves from the grave I realized the lesson of grief is that it's only an indicator of compassion. If you never had any compassion, you'd never have a reason to grieve. So be thankful for your grief because it means you had something once, even if only briefly. Or at least that's what I learned at an old cemetery tucked away on a military base in the swampy gulf coast."

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