Now Write. Now Write. Now Write. Now Write.

It’s been three weeks since I’ve written anything of significance. It’s been three weeks since I’ve sat at my computer or opened the black cover of my big fat journal. I’ve told myself over and over again to write. I’ve even been told to write.

But what happened three weeks ago has been more difficult than I could ever imagine to even think about writing about death, grief, love and loss.

Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write.

However painful, devastating, and truly, cleaving this experience has been it has to be written about. I have to write. I translate experiences–that of my own and of others–into words. No matter the heaviness of my grief, the hole that is now jaggedly carved into my heart or my fear of what others may think about this post, the words must come or else, I fear, that they might forever become  blocked.

Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write.

Three weeks ago, I was on the Island with my family and had just finished drinking my first cup of coffee when my phone rang. It was my husband, Cole, and I was surprised at the early hour he was calling from Montana. I said hello and he cried, “Nigel is dead. My brother is dead.”

Cole’s brother, Nigel, aged 28 years and 21 days, had died in the early hours of June 11th.

Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write.

It has become my mantra, this repeating, this murmuring, this cajoling and ultimately a plea: now write.

I can’t pretend that I can write anything significant about death because I’m merely a human, broken and saddened by the sudden and tragic loss of my brother-in-law. I have no answers. Why would I? As so many people say at a time like this: there are no words. It’s true: what do you say to a mother and a father who’ve lost their son? What do you say to a brother and a husband who cries, “Oh Nigel. Oh Nigel.”

You don’t say anything. Words are superfluous. Meaningless. There are no answers and no way to undo what has been done. I think what you do is stay close to those who’ve been cleaved, ripped apart and left wandering around wondering why, why, why, why. You hold hands and run your fingers through hair. You cook dinner (apparently Cole and I’ve learned that lasagna is the go-to food for those in mourning) and you listen to sad, angry, and sometimes, happy stories of a life snuffed out much too early. You listen to rants and curses. You silently hope that one day, there might be peace, but you’re not sure that will ever happen. Not now. Now when the pain and anguish is so hot, so searing. It brands you and it is a wound that will not heal.

And sometimes, you climb a mountain. Your grief is much, much heavier than any backpack. As if it could even been contained between nylon and webbing. As if. As a newly formed family, you get the courage to get out of bed, brush your teeth and try to face a world that no longer makes one lick of sense. This is a family who climbs mountains, always has. This is a family on one Saturday in Glacier National Park will try to gather physical strength to go up. This is a family who, with each step on loose and rotten rock, a trademark of Glacier, will try to work out their heavy, heavy burden. There are not enough mountains in Glacier or any where else in the world for this family to step, climb, step, climb out of this grief. People say: time, time, time. Time will help. Perhaps it will ease the sting, the rawness of the loss. But I doubt that there’s really ever enough time to make the loss any less painful and shocking.

Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write. Now write.

When I reached the top of Medicine, a sort of rounded mountain, more of a named topographic feature on a map than a peak, I walked by the jumbled mass of rocks–a cairn–and I plucked a deep rust colored rock and placed it on the pile. And when I reached the summit of Mt. Henry, I did so again. I am of little faith in any organized, mass produced, human constructed version of a god. I believe in waves and in mountains. I believe that sometimes, the world throws you something so unbearable that you physical break. I also believe that sometimes, the universe sends you something like a lightening bolt, right into your yard, shattering your house in white light just as you’re speaking about your dearly departed and his fondness for light shows at concerts. I believe that rocks hold much more than just the earth. So when I held those warm rocks in my hands, I thought of Nigel and without saying a word aloud, I placed the rock on the cairn to show him that I was paying attention. I don’t have the right words for Cole’s parents and maybe not even the right action by creating a small gesture in the wake of his loss, but I felt compelled to do so. We humans, trying to make sense of a world that we hardly understand.

At Nigel’s powerful and moving memorial service, Cole’s parents chose to end the service by playing two songs that Nigel composed on the piano and a third song,  “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, with him on vocals and playing guitar. It was difficult to not wail when his voice rose over the speakers but it was also beautiful to hear him because Nigel was a musician, his world translated through music. Atop Mt. Henry, watching thunderheads stack and roil on the Continental Divide, I thought of his voice singing the lyrics:

I took my love and I took it down 
I climbed a mountain and I turned around 

And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills 
‘Till the landslide brought me down 

Perhaps each in our own way, sitting on the top of that mountain, a grieving mother, father, and son and daughter in law, we took our love to that mountain. And we looked, across the expanse of many mountains, still blanketed in snow, as hard as we could for Nigel’s reflection.

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6 thoughts on “Now Write. Now Write. Now Write. Now Write.

  1. I am saddened but unsurprised to find that you write lyrically and clearly about grief. We are remembering Nigel’s beauty each day as we gaze into Glacier and will celebrate him with each peak we climb there, always. Xo

  2. Linda

    Such a tragedy and loss, Maggie. I hope that words and your effort to express grief in words becomes the process that provides some healing for you and Cole’s family.

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