Last Saturday, January 31, 2015, we lost Ferguson. This post is not about sweet, cherished Ferguson. This is about my sadness.
It starts with a tightening swelling in the chest. I can’t tell whether it is from blood swelling into the cardiac muscle or refusing to leave it. (I now understand the phrase “heartbroken.”) Next it moves to the extremities. My fingertips tingle, immediately after giving way to an almost pleasant burning sensation in my palms and the arches of my feet. Then it shifts back to my core. I feel it simultaneously constricting my gut into a tilt-a-whirling cesspool and tightening my throat into a hair-thin pathway. Nausea is palatable and it becomes hard to breathe. This is when my eyes start burning and I hear a high-pitched whine behind my eyes, seemingly emanating from my skull. The area in my chest hardens, maybe attempting to consolidate the sorrow into a manageable size. But now it’s just so concentrated with hurt that it starts to implode reaching the highest density of pain, and then it explodes shrapnel shanks of pain throughout my chest cavity. The shanks directly strike my throat and force out a cry, a choke, a whimper, a gag, a sob. The whimpers are other-worldly sounds that I have never made. Almost comical, if there was a smile or laugh left anywhere inside of me.
The whimpers come out of my mouth so forlorn that even I can hear their melodrama. But they aren’t a product of the mouth. They were formed from the shrapnel of whimper piercing my throat and are merely being pushed out of the mouth. A dispersal method to share my suffering. These whimpers and whines are giving voice to the guttural screaming reverberating around my head. Why? Why?? WHY??? The screams shout with all their ferocity. Life will never be the same again.
For the ache to reach my entire body it only takes a second, but after it starts it follows a continuous loop. The pain just courses its way through my body over and over and over again. Dizzying and nauseating. In between gasps for airs, and retches the only noise my body lets out is sobs.
And even as my body is seizing up and feels like it’s failing normal function, I know the source of all my torment is my mind. The physical reaction is real, but the cause cannot be corrected physically. What can fix the pain? Sedatives and alcohol only dull it temporarily. Screaming still pounds through the head at a muted level, but it’s still there with all the ferocious feeling behind it even though the sound in my head is barely perceptible. It brings to mind watching an explosion without any sound. The excitement and destruction are there, but it feels artificial without any sound. Sedatives seem to delegitimize my pain. What help is there for the grief?
Never have I more clearly had a yearning for the comfort that only faith can offer believers. Not just a comfort for myself, but a comfort for him. Where is he now? We scattered his ashes at our picnic spot on the beach, but he’s not there. Those bits and pieces don’t encompass his vitality or unfailing happiness. How could they? They can’t. So where is his essence, his being, the spark of life that made him him? The faithful call this his soul. (If their faith even allows for him to have a soul.) I avoid the corny thoughts of pearly gates and haloed German Shepherds greeting him. I would like to think of his After-Place as being a soft window seat with a sunny view, a huge unfenced yard for him to frolic with reunited friends, but it’s hard to think of him without us. I can’t imagine his happiness without us, or our happiness without him. Who will love him even when he rolls in rotting fish, or makes a mould of his teeth by chewing on superglue? Who has taken over my most important job from me? I would like to think of a happy place for him and a benevolent caretaker. But this is the great irony. In one moment I yearn for and understand faith; in the next I reject any faith that believes in an omnipotent God that would take him from me.
This is my grief.