Can you spot the significance of this photo? I took it from behind, as this was a group of strangers and I didn’t want to intrude.
Bringing up the rear is a lady with slightly greying hair, and in front of her is presumably her husband, both I would guess in their 50s.
The pair riding side-by-side in front are maybe in their late 20s or early 30s.
And at the front of the group – you can hardly see them but if you look at the wheels you can just about spot the blue of their shorts – at the front there is a child or two.
There’s admittedly a bit of guesswork in my story, but at least by the looks of it, this was a lovely three-generation excursion on a glorious summer day in Derbyshire. Grandmother and grandfather, mother and father, child/grandchild.
This has never been a picture of my own family. My parents weren’t cyclists and neither was I. And it will never be a picture of my future either, as I’m still not a cyclist.
But more than that, neither of my two children are still alive, and I have no grandchildren nor possibility of them.
I used to get quite emotionally affected when I’d see a family group like this on one of my many countryside walks, but it’s not so much like that anymore. The passing of time does bring some adjustments. It still stings, but mostly I (silently) wish this family well and try not to dwell on the “What if’s” of my own losses. (There’s a link here to an earlier article, on being a bereaved parent, where I tell this story.)
Unlike me, my husband John does enjoy cycling. The other day he was locking his bike onto the back of our car while waiting for me outside the Health Centre. A lady passing by started smiling and chatting with him, telling the story of how she and her husband had bought bikes and gone for their only cycle ride; he had become ill after that, and has since passed away. She was comforted by the sight of another man and his bike, because it brought back a good memory, a loving memory.
I wonder how often we sit on a train, tube or a bus, or in a cafe, engrossed in our own thoughts and perhaps our phone or tablet. If we look up, we might notice a lone stranger with a faint smile or eyes brimming up with tears. What’s going on in that person’s thoughts, we might wonder. It isn’t appropriate to intrude, so we won’t usually ever know, but if there’s an opportunity for conversation we might be surprised to discover how many are grieving losses of all kinds.
Picture a busy supermarket, and someone standing in the laundry detergent aisle, and they seem to be taking an inordinately long time to choose which laundry soap to buy. Maybe again there are eyes brimming up with tears. Why is it so difficult? Perhaps they’ve always used a certain brand – let’s say it’s Surf – and the smell of washed clothes brings back the memory of their loved one. They can do a load of washing, dry it, smell it, and perhaps even hug it, as that particular scent reminds them just so very much of him or her. But maybe they’re tossing up the idea of changing brands now, as it’s so emotional, or maybe – disaster! – the brand they used is no longer for sale and the choice is no longer there. Or just maybe it was their partner who used to do the shopping and they can’t remember which brand they usually buy.
Maybe you’re at a petrol station, and the older lady in front is struggling to figure out how to fill up the car. She’s trying to hold that little trigger switch but is finding it difficult. Perhaps she hasn’t done this before. Perhaps filling up the car was something her husband has always done, but he’s no longer here.
Grief isn’t limited to being at home or being at the cemetery. Grief isn’t limited to emotions and feelings. Grief often intermingles with practical, everyday concerns.
Absolutely everything can connect with grief, whether our own or someone else’s. And that’s why this is a cycling post on a grief blog.
Go softly through your day,
Treat others with kindness
Who knows what losses they are grieving?
Who knows what loves they are missing?
* * *
Grief spills out in unexpected places
Grief doesn’t respect time or spaces
Grief can be a scent, or grief can be a sight
Grief intermingles with all of life
What’s true of love is true of grief.
It lasts – and outlives life itself.
It threads through our days
And embraces our nights.
Grief can sometimes seem too much to bear
Not much in life is quite so unfair.
Words can’t express the sorrow of heart
When we and our loved ones were forced apart.
We sort out the remains of our fractured life
It’s not as we planned or expected at all
There’s so much to manage, so much to do
All while we endure such heartbreak too.
Some days are worse, but we get by
With a hug and a pause and a quiet cry.
For better or worse, we remember still
To grieve is to love, and we always will.
To grieve is to love, and we always will
Grief isn’t fixed by a little white pill
It’s not solved by time or some clever device
It’s not something that happens just once or twice.
To grieve is to love, I say it again
Moments will pass, love will remain
As long as we breathe, we think of them still
To love is to grieve, and we always will.