Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Molten Grief



photo courtesy: USGS


We here on the Big Island - as others around the world now too - are watching in awe, horror and sadness as Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of the volcano, marches her molten walk through the community of Pahoa. It is indeed a big island; I live far, far away from that and am quite safe, but we who live here feel a kinship with our neighbors. We all hoped and prayed it would stop or change direction, as it can and has been known to do, since it started this past June.

But now, as it has indeed reached the town itself, I can't stop thinking about it. In particular, the lava recently crossed over the 100-year old cemetery down there, covering the headstones, statues and burial places. What are families going to do now? People who have lost their loved ones must bear this next loss now too. My heart goes out to them. Grief compounded. Buried twice. Markers lost forever.

Many lives are now going to have to change. Important roads and access are now breached. Homes, schools, pastureland, gardens and businesses are threatened, and another beautiful corner of this lovely place will be eternally buried under the slow but unstoppable fiery rock.

Driving home today I was thinking how all the islands were formed this way. One day many hundreds or thousands of years ago, even the road I was driving on was molten, hot and steaming. Not an inch of the place I live is free of the experience. Because of the lava, Hawaii exists. Destructive - and yet also creative.

I realized that the lava reminds me of the process of grief. It is unstoppable, searing, and can bring unwanted changes and terrible destruction to our lives. And eventually, unfortunately, it will touch most, if not all people, somehow. It is unavoidable, because everyone dies. But generations pass, and the world continues being created, changed; morphed into its new being.

Many of the residents of Pahoa are facing Madame Pele with a grim calm and resignation. Such is the nature of life on a volcanic island. I imagine there will be a period of grief for them, as they will mourn the loss of the way things used to be. That sounds familiar. Many have already left the area. Some are in evacuation mode as I type this. Others, I have read, hope to continue on even despite the moves and changes that are to come. To restore and rebuild this beautiful and unique community however possible. To see the lava flow as another story, another chapter, of this already unusual place. Because it will never go away, that giant scar through the land in Pahoa. The community will just have to learn how to live with, and around, the long, gaping wound of that lava flow. 

That also sounds familiar.

I sometimes feel like I'm being dragged along, pulled screaming and writhing through the molten morass of my own grief since Mike's death into a future I never asked for. I sometimes want to just curl up into a ball and make everything go away. I sometimes don't want life to go on...and I don't mean that how it sounds. I just want things to stay exactly how they are...or more exactly, how they were, maybe around Christmas 2012. But they can't. Time is a vicious, cruel creature that cannot be trained, corralled or controlled...also, much like the lava.

One day, many, many years from now, life will again begin to grow on top of the now-molten flow. It will take ages and ages, but it will happen. Eventually, the island will heal itself and nature will rebound. Similarly, facing disaster, we humans, somehow, some day, begin working towards that inner strength to persevere.  That survivor instinct. We pick up our lives, piece by piece, from the torn and scattered bits.  It might take ages and ages, it might be really hard and terrible, and it might come in fits and spurts - but it can, and will, happen. I have to believe this is possible.

Some days, I do feel an inner strength quietly forming; one that wants to release me from the bondage of this horrible fate, and set me free to explore this strange new world. I have no choice but to find a way to live without Mike; I have no choice but to wait for the heat to subside, wait for the new ground to solidify, and rebuild upon the ashes and ruins of the old.


10 comments:

  1. You have yet again written a very great post! The analogy of the lava and grief is spot on and brings a real yet different perspective to grief. I too feel an inner strength emerging, slowly but I have felt it flicker so now I know that much as life is over, a new one awaits me. All the best and thank you once again for such an eloquent post.
    RK.

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    1. Hi RK, thank you, I'm glad you could relate, and that you too feel that flicker. All the best to you as well.

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  2. Leslie in Little RockOctober 30, 2014 at 7:40 AM

    I identified with this sentence..." I just want things to stay exactly how they are...or more exactly, how they were,,,,"

    For me, the time is January 2012. My family was in Oʻahu, where my husband, Stewart, was speaking at a national Farm Bureau Conference. Our two daughters were with us too and our oldest daughter, Lauren, celebrated her 19th Birthday in Hawaii while our youngest daughter was just a few short months away from her 15th birthday.

    We had such a great time together as a family and for Stewart as a Journalist. We loved it, went on tours and out to dinners, spent time at the beach and lots of shopping. We didn't know then that a month later I would be hospitalized for Pneumonia from a "nasty bug" that my doctor thinks I picked up in Hawaii and that five months later my husband would suddenly pass away, the day after the went to he doctor because he didn't feel well and was told he was fine. He died of an undiagnosed Pulmonary Embolism on May 10, 2012 and our lives have never been the same since.

    I am thinking of you and everyone affected by the lava and praying for the strength to move forward.

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    1. Hi Leslie, I am so sorry for your loss. I am glad you had a nice memory of your time in Hawaii but very sorry that it led so soon to a terrible outcome. What an awful tragedy. Thank you for your prayers, and blessings to you as well.

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  3. Beautifully written Stephanie - the comparison to the lava / grief and permanent life changes was right on point.

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    1. Thank you Becky. The lava is so up front in my head these days - maybe I feel the grief flooding up to Kona and just can't stop thinking about it. It's unfortunately now a familiar feeling. All the best to you.

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  4. Beautifully written, Stephanie! If I could go back to the time before the lava of grief changed my life, it would be May 2010 before the cancer diagnosis. We were celebrating our birthdays, our youngest was about to graduate high school and we were starting to do more things for us, since all our sons would officially be adults.

    Eventually, I know this grief will give way to new life and though I'm moving as slow as the lava flow some days, I'm moving forward. Not in a destructive way but moving nonetheless. Thank you so much for your insightful writing.

    --Marissa

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    1. Hi Marissa, thank you for commenting. Yes it does feel slow and searing, this grief, and we press forward as best we can. Hugs.

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  5. dear Stephanie,

    you write of the lava as grief in such a beautiful yet haunting way, and I am so very sorry for all the losses you so compassionately note for the people of Pahoa. yes, that marching forward flow of lava, destroying everything that was beautiful, both what could be seen and the feelings and nuances and connectiveness of what makes a community, families, places and times touched with fond and cherished memories. it is Pele's life force, it's destiny to devastate then re-create something in place of what was there. and for now, as the grief spreads itself over the land, it suffocates and paralyzes all life beneath it, leaving those behind with nary a shred of being able to envision what will rise from that awful destruction, what will someday be an afterbirth of the lava that is a living flow of death. and there you are, as are all of us whom you have given a chance to pay witness to what is gone, to what could have been, to what might have flourished and remained so incredibly breathtakingly beautiful. just like widows' grief and the struggle to comprehend all that has been lost to us, and the horrific challenge to somehow redesign our lives just so that we can begin to breath our own life forces into something alive and meaningful to live by. it' so HARD, but even feeling a small inner movement of strength to move forward is encouraging. I will send you my biggest, brightest, and shiniest beams of hope that even if that sign of impending strength waivers from time to time, it will still continue to live and grow and flourish and give you comfort. thank you for this heart felt and insightful post.

    much love,

    Karen

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    1. Hi Karen, thank you for your own beautifully written words about the lava. It means a lot that we can relate to each other and understand the painful process of searching for new life after the destruction. Thank you for sending hope and sharing. Hugs to you.

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