Love, grief both are from heaven

Love cannot be forced.... Love cannot be coaxed and teased. It comes out of Heaven unmasked and unsought.

- Pearl S. Buck

Grief is not unlike love. Grief also cannot be forced to come or go at will. Like love, it comes out of heaven. Grief, after all, is love's twin.

What is our sorrow if it is not the anguish we feel over the loss of love?

My sister, Suzie, died 15 years ago, when she was just 42. I grieved her death with too much intensity, or so it may have seemed to some of those around me.

I could do nothing about that. I learned then that no one can tell you how to grieve. There is nothing predictable about loss.

The world is not real when we mourn. The real world resides in our minds, where our loved one returns when the phone rings, when we pick up something once seen in the beloved one's hand, when we hear that particular song.

We forget. We undergo that grueling moment of awareness again and again.

Even now, 15 years later, if I come home to find a message I left for myself on the answering machine, I hear Suzie's voice before I understand that I am hearing my own. She and I sounded so much alike.

Our grief is complicated by our love.

I have imagined these past days what it must have been like for my husband, Ralf, to hold in his hands letters that his mother, Evelyn, wrote to Ralf's father, Willy, when she was just 19. How did he feel two weeks ago, when he had to select from lace she had made, pack her beloved crystal wine glasses, make pictures of her birth certificate?

When he came home from Germany and unpacked Evelyn's opal jewelry, I found myself unable to stop turning it over and over. Some part of me wanted to imagine that if I rubbed the gold hard enough, it would be the magical act that would unmake her death.

There is no such unmaking, I know.

Grief comes, as does love, from heaven. It arrives on its own time, and it must be honored.

Blessed with love, we must therefore know grief.

We can thank heaven that someday we will know that the blessing we have known is more powerful than the loss.