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Raise a cup for life.

June 14, 2015


Bea was my mother’s friend from when they were little girls. My mom passed away about eight years ago, but she and Bea (and twelve of their friends) all knew each other since kindergarten. I grew up in New York City, but remember always hearing about Bea, because she had moved to Boston. She was a psychotherapist and her husband Steve was a professor at MIT.

When I moved to Boston, I looked them up, and my husband and I enjoyed getting together with them. After a while, we lost touch, and it wasn’t until a few months ago, after Steve passed away, that Bea and I reconnected. A few days before Steve’s memorial service I walked into Bea’s kitchen and straight into her grieving arms.

I was struck by her confusion, unsteadiness, and frailty (even though she is a robust woman). I shouldn’t have been, since her husband of sixty-two years had just left this earth. It was just that I remembered her as being so unbelievably vibrant, quick-witted, and psychologically aware.

Her three children were by their father’s side when he died. After, two of them returned to the mid-west to their spouses and young children. Fortunately, her eldest daughter lives nearby.

When I saw Bea that first day in her apartment I had an overwhelming urge to take care of her, thinking that, not being her child, I could help her in a special way. Her forgetfulness and confusion were signals to me to make myself available to her, that I was uniquely honored with this charge.

Since then, each time we’ve gotten together she has been a little more lucid, with it, and insightful—like the Bea I used to know. It was as if the grief that had frozen her was beginning to thaw. Once when we were talking, she told me that, at the moment Steve died she stopped feeling, and has felt nothing since. I believed that by being with her I was witnessing a side of life that is so real, yet, one that no one talks about—how death is part of life, and how grief can swallow you whole, having no mercy. I was honored that she shared her feelings and experiences with me. She asked me to continue calling, that she needed me.

Tomorrow, I am taking Bea to Macy’s. While on the phone making our plans, she said she, “may not be crazy after all,” and mentioned the name of a grieving group she might check out—a true psychotherapist, at heart.

I look forward to seeing what she buys—a new shirt, perhaps, some underwear, a tea cup. Whatever she buys—for me, it will be a symbol of life, of living, and of the fact that it doesn’t end, until the moment our own candle expires. A blessed person am I to know this.

2 Responses to “Raise a cup for life.”

  1. Gail this story touched me deeply on many levels. Before reading your article, I had an in-depth conversation about grief with my friend who is a clinical psychologist. She had just lost her grandfather and sister unexpectedly and called to tell her a close mutual friend had just passed. A shock to us all. Grief is something we move through in our own way and time. Otherwise we can get stuck in it grip. Bea sounds like she is moving through her grief and and has a wonderful friend in you by her side.

  2. Wow. What timing. Yes, we do move through it in our own time and way, as I know you know. And grief is part of life. Somehow, through the media we got the message that life is always supposed to be easy. When we feel the grief we can also the joy. Thank you so much for your input, as always. Much, much appreciated.

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