Susan E Casey

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The Crunch of Snow

51 Comments

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Shock. It paralyzes the senses long enough for the body, the spirit, the mind to catch up with each other, to absorb whatever terrible news that’s been delivered to us. For me, it was a 30 second phone call from my sister-in law, Dewi that lingered for days and lingers still.

“You have to be brave, Sue. Brian (Rocky) is gone.”

A small voice rose up from inside of me.  “What? Gone where?”

“He’s free, Sue,” Dewi said. “He’s free.” 

 

I imagined her standing in a crowded hallway inside Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong as her own shock held her body like a netted fish, while pure, unrefined Grief waited his turn, ready with outstretched claws to sink into skin and bone when Shock released her.

“I don’t understand,” I said. My brother hadn’t felt well. He went to the hospital. He was stable. He would fully recover. I had been told this only hours earlier.

“I have to go, Sue,” Dewi said. “I have to call my family.”

I was left holding the phone in my hand as if it had turned into a hand grenade. I pulled the pin and  pressed numbers on the key pad and made the calls. First my father. Then my brothers. Then my husband. And one by one, I blew their world apart. For all of us, our first thought was how would my mother survive this?

We all met that night at my parents. We sat in the living room where my four siblings and I had grown up and fought over  TV shows, unwrapped Christmas gifts from Santa, ten-speed bikes, beanbag chairs, and soccer balls. The same space where we hunted for chocolate Easter eggs, spilled juice on the carpet, and had Backgammon tournaments. The space where I used to wind my brothers hair around my finger during a phase in his life when he wanted dreadlocks.  He thought my finger-twirling assistance would help to expedite the dreading process. It was the same space where my brother had been only seven short months before when he and his family made the long trek from Bali to visit us in June. His daughter, Sara turned three while they were here. She closed her eyes, sent a wish out to the universe and blew out three candles. I wonder now if whatever she had wished for has come true.

As we all sat drowning in our own personal memories, we did all those things people do when that hammer whirls through the air and smashes your life once again into shards of glass. We hugged, we cried, and worked at the failing task to console each other.  

When I returned home that night, Friday, February 14th, the day for love and for lovers, I was a foreigner to myself, having no idea what to do with the stranger that had taken up residence in my body. I opened my computer and worked until 3:30 in the morning, completing tasks for a leadership summit I was supposed to attend the following week. I tugged and yanked and pulled as many loose ends as I could together for the summit as my ends were unraveling—my mind, my heart, my nerves. I sent the materials off in a neat little email attachment, while I numbly stumbled around in my shell of shock. I stared at the computer screen. I got on Facebook and ran fingers over my brother’s beautiful smile and whipped myself raw as I scrolled through picture after picture, sure, so sure there had been a mistake of some kind.

“Where are you?” I asked my brother.

The hand on the clocked moved around and around until it was morning and I still sat and stared at his face, read his posts. In those early hours of learning what couldn’t possibly be true, I reflected on my blog post. The bag of glass, creating a new mosaic design. Hadn’t I already done that after my mother’s stroke? Is there truly no bottom to how much heartache a person, a family can endure in one lifetime? I’d carry these questions around with me as my oldest brother and I made the dazed trip to Hong Kong and then to Bali where we would enter my brother’s house, feel his ghost-self, sniff the air for his scent, while grief and reality collided, knocking air from our lungs.

The first night in my brother’s house, I was aware that Grief was dressed in full Grief regalia, present and waiting to be acknowledged. But I took my time as I listened for my brother’s voice, and waited to feel his arms around me and say, “I love you, sis. Thanks for making the trip.”

I searched for him in his closet, pressing his favorite t-shirt to my face. I sat on his porch swing, alert, ready to hear his footsteps on the Balinese grass. Grief wouldn’t wait any longer. He sucked up all the space, brought my sister in law to her knees as she pounded the earth and begged to understand what she’d done so wrong in this lifetime to deserve a visit from Grief; she looked around in the darkness, searching for God, but did not see nor feels God’s presence.

Grief is a wizard and can do wizardly things to the body, to the mind. He’s an illusionist, can make you believe with a single swipe of his wand, he can make God disappear. Grief can crush the heart and sit on the soul and smother it if you let it.

The minutes nestled within each hour ticked by as though an angel had reached down and hit the slow motion button on the world. I knew the stages of grief, rehearsed them in my mind. The stages take time, I said to myself. They take time. How much time? Grief can’t be rushed, or pushed, or shooed out of your heart like an obnoxious house guest.

 

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Each day, I wake up from restless sleep, and remember my brother is gone all over again. I get myself out of bed, without the energy to complete simple daily tasks. Disrobing, showering, dressing feel as daunting as climbing up Mt. Everest. When the sun sets, I Face Time with Dewi, my widowed sister-in law, feel the intensity of her pain across the thousands of miles, praying Grief doesn’t hang around for good. My words that I hand over to her, slip through my fingers and lie between us, motionless, useless. Nothing brings her relief accept the thought that one day she will re-join him. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two days ago, I walked through the snow, felt the crunch under my boots, searching for clues, something tangible to give Hope shape. As I sunk through the hard crust of snow to the softer underbelly, I had this thought: Grief  can wrap its hands around your heart and imprison you in the past, turn your heart cold and hard, pulling the shade on light, slamming the door on beauty, on love, on all that’s good, and real and worth living for.  Grief can do that…it can.

 

But here’s something else I’m learning about Grief. If it has the power to harden the heart, it also has the power to soften it, like that underbelly of the snow.  

ImageWith each tragedy, every loss, space is left behind, leaving room for hope, for new love to bloom, for deeper roots of gratitude and appreciation for the good, the joy, the laughter and beauty in our life. For me, I’ve prayed for my brother’s passing to soften my heart and to make those moments of joy that much sweeter than they were before.

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51 thoughts on “The Crunch of Snow

  1. Susan, I am so sorry and this is so beautiful and so true…it takes time…a long time and grief is never a straight journey no it doubles back and slams us when we are least expecting it. But…so does the joy and the love, they come to us through the memories we hold so dear in our hearts forever. I am so glad to see you blogging again as I have missed your lovely thoughts and words and this will be one of the tools that will get you through. Hugs.
    Mary

  2. Susan, this is so strong and beautiful and courageous. This moves me deeply. HUGE HUGS of care and compassion to you. It’s come through in my reading/listening twice this past week: the more intimate the details of our writing become the more universal the experience. Keep writing. I know the writing is your raft. Much love. Berry

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. Absolutely a stunning and beautiful analogy. You are such a gifted writer and person Suzie. As you know….there is no hope without grief. I’m sorry you’ve experienced so much grief…but I thank you for sharing your life with me. Time is not kind I’ve found…..but I think time is necessary in order to develop patience, tolerance and acceptance of life events. We must experience ALL life events (positive and negative) in order to be truly fulfilled for our travels to our next journey after death. Your brother must have been truly fulfilled in life to be so lucky to pass on to his next life’s journey. His journey should bring you Hope. I would not be surprised if his spirit helps you and yours along the way to reaching your true fulfillment. Let his spirit be your guidepost to Hope. 🙂

    • Eve,
      I absolutely love what you’ve written and the way you’ve written it. “We must experience ALL life events (positive and negative) in order to be truly fulfilled for our travels to our next journey after death.” So true and beautifully put! I hope I get to see you soon. I miss you and think you are amazing as well. I do talk to my brother and ask him daily for guidance…it will come…it will. All my love to you, Susan

  4. The soul is welcomed by their loved ones upon each travel from the relative to the absolute; and and from the absolute into the relative. Grief is experienced at these travels as well. Susan, much divine love to you, and for your willingness to share your grief with countless others.

    • Peter,
      thank GOD for Neale’s course. I know now why I felt so compelled to sign up. I love your insights and thank you for the love. Sending love back your way!

  5. Susan, your words, your pain, your bravery…so beautiful, so sad, so genuine. I love your honesty and I agree…hope is what gets us all through the darkest times. You inspire me. Sending you love and holding you in the light as you heal and move through this grief. Much love to you and your family!

    • Thank you, Michelle. You are such a love…a bright light. We’ll be posting the details for my brother’s memorial and FB soon. I hope to see you there so I can give you a hug. Thank your words and your love.
      Sending you love back!
      xo

  6. Tears roll down my face as I read your post. Sadness from the passing of Rocky and shear amazement in your words you write as you process this thing we call life & death.

  7. Susan, I was introduced to your blog from Maggie. Oh, how blessed I am to find you- and your precious gift. Under the horrifying circumstances of Grief and its wizardly intentions, you beautiful brought light and through the underbelly of the hard crunchy heart that so many hold tight and refuse to let go.

    Thank you for your purpose. You have a gift, and I am your newest fan!! SO lovely to meet you!!!

    Chris Carter

  8. Susan, I was introduced to your blog from Maggie. Oh, how blessed I am to find you- and your precious gift. Under the horrifying circumstances of Grief and its wizardly intentions, you beautiful brought light and through the underbelly of the hard crunchy heart that so many hold tight and refuse to let go.

    Thank you for your purpose. You have a gift, and I am your newest fan!! SO lovely to meet you!!!

    Chris Carter

    (Trying to comment again through my fb account!)

    • Oh Chris, thank you for your words and encouragement. I wasn’t sure if I should post this…afraid it was too depressing. I truly appreciate your feedback and I’m so happy that this piece touched you. Maggie is a love and another who is always gentle and encouraging.
      Blessings and love,
      Susan

  9. Susan-

    I feel that familiar grip around my own heart as I read your words. Grief is like a cloak, and it wears heavy. It shadows everything…even God. But God is still there…and will be revealed.

    Love to you and yours, and prayers that the light pierces the dark.

    • Thank you Alissia,
      Yes…God is always there, this I know…walking along the path of grief are small, baby steps that will eventually lead to that spot where the sun shines brightly. I’m walking that path now…but I’ll get there…I will. Love you, too!

  10. I am so terribly sorry for your loss. I’ve been visited by this grief, the absolute shock, the feeling that life is surely over with the loss of my father and my godfather. Both suddenly gone, both losses leaving me paralyzed. Only a few days ago, a family friend was suddenly gone. I came across this post today and shared it with his family. You have beautifully captured this pain into words. As a writer, I know how therapeutic this can be. God bless you and your family.

    • Oh Susannah, I, too am so sorry for your losses! Yes, you understand that writing is literally a saving grace…I’m not sure what I’d do if I couldn’t write my way through it. I’m sending you and your family and your friend’s family light and love. Thanks for you comment.

  11. “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” – Julian of Norwich.

    It is heartening indeed to see that you are transmuting your grief – and thus the grief of those around you… xoxo

    • George,
      I have three words for you: I LOVE YOU! Thank you for all your emails and reminders to be gentle. Thank you my friend, thank you. Okay..so that was more than three words.
      xoxoxox Much love!

  12. Love you so much, Susan. Your blog post personified grief so well. I cannot even imagine the hole in your heart, but I do know that the love and care of all your many friends will help to fill it.

  13. You are a beautiful writer not only because you can figure out the lovely image or phrase, but because you are a warrior of the heart, going forth, digging deeper even when it would be so much easier to close your eyes, to stand still in the pain. Your words bump up against my own grief and so many others. We are with you my sweet soul and I thank you for your truth.

    • Oh my beautiful warrior sister…right back at you for all your stunning, truthful, and raw writing…I love you…and I love your writing, your memoir…all my love and gratitude for what your own beautiful soul brings to this world.
      xo

  14. Thank you for writing and sharing. I love your words.

  15. Profound, beautiful, intimate…thank you for sharing your soul and journey. Your love and beauty shine in your words. I adore you, my soul sister. ❤

    • Sharon, you’ve been so honest and raw in your own journey with me. And it’s your generous sharing of your own journey that inspires me as I walk along my own. I love you and your own warm light that you radiate.
      All my love,
      Susan

  16. Oh you brave, beautiful spirit. Thank you for writing something so lovely and raw to help us all learn that Hope can be carried on through even the hardest times. I am in awe of your honesty. So many of us carry grief in secret places, shrouded in silence and shame – we don’t share or make sense of it … but you tilt your brave little chin toward the horizon and keep your eyes searching for the gifts. You are truly an inspiration. I will re-read this over and over during the tough times I will have to face. Thank you for this hard-won gift. xo

    • Dearest Pender,
      Thank you sweet friend for your words…I don’t feel brave, I feel as though I’m stumbling around in this new world view, not sure which direction to head into. I know this experience will be a series of short clips that I’ll write about as I find my way. I do know there is a brighter light waiting for me to guide me and if I can help others have hope that they, too, will find their own inner light…then I’ll keep writing about it as honestly as I can given where I am. You are an inspiration to me as well. All my love,
      Susan

  17. Oh Casa, I guess you can never really know why things happen until you know… I think that somewhere under the leaves the fairies do hide their hats and I know you have the eyes to see them… Never forget what lies in the silence we call empty… The heart has eyes that see. I love you!

    • Oh Esta, I do search for the fairies…their hats…I won’t stop looking or searching and I promise, I’ll reach into the silence and listen. I will. I love you,
      Susan

  18. Oh my dear amazing friend. I find myself once again at a loss for words. Your writing is unlike anything I have experienced before. Thank you so much for your beautiful words. For your courage and honesty in sharing something so deeply personal while at the same time being a balm for anyone who has known such grief. I am humbled by your strength and courage and I consider myself truly blessed for having you in my life. I love you my dear friend.

    I wish you continued strength and grace in this difficult time. May the love of everyone around you help heal your heart. Where my words fail, I send you nothing but LOVE.

    • Thank you, Yvon,
      For your love, your comments, your encouragement. As I wrote in a previous comment, I will continue to write about this experience if it truly gives others hope, if I can help to put words to what they’re feeling in their deepest grief. Grief, I know is universal. We’ve all felt it to varying degrees. My brother is the closest person I’ve ever lost…and yet, when I bear witness to my sister-in law’s grief, I know this emotion has layers and depth..her climb toward the sun feels higher than mine and I want to help her get through it. I’ve lost a brother, she’s lost a spouse. And this amazing journey we’re all on I believe it’s about holding each other in the joy and holding each other up when we need a crutch. Thank you for being a crutch. All my love and gratitude for you and your friendship.
      Susan

  19. Grief breaks our heart open and Grace fills in the cracks. Thank you, Susan, for allowing us to carry even a little bit for you, reminding us that we are all connected. Rocky is indeed free from all suffering and would want the same for us.

  20. Sue, I kept seeing your brother’s face on my Facebook feed. Funny, he knew so many of my friends from so many parts of my life. He had a big impact. There is no doubt about it. My best to you and your family. Stay strong, sister!

  21. Thank you for sharing your grief moments with us. Your words bring your pain and the healing close as I see again the distant and fond treasures of times with you, your brother and your beautiful family – thankful memories brought to life through your words.

    • Thank you, Randy for your thoughtful and loving comment. We’ll walk through our memories one day at a time…and one day they’ll bring joy rather than this deep feeling of loss and heartache. He was such a bright and beautiful soul…and I’m honored that he was my brother and I had him in my life even if it feels far shorter than I had planned.
      All my love,
      Susan

  22. Thank you, Susan, for sharing such deep and incredible feelings. I wish I had known Rocky! I can see how much he was loved by our amazing family and wonderful friends. What a sweet man he must have been. Keep writing. Your gift can help you to heal. Lots of love to you, My Cousin!

    Debbie

    • I love you my cousin! I wish you could have known him, too…you would have loved him.

      Gosh…I wished you lived closer!!
      All my love,
      Susan

      • Me, too! I’ve been wanting to hug you and look at your beautiful face! Please know you are precious and you are loved. You are a blessing to Dewi and Sara. Thank you for doing the hard work it takes to be there for them and the rest of our family!

  23. You are truly a beautiful writer and I can feel the depths of your pain through it. I too, as I am sure so many others did, took the time to scroll through Rocky’s FB page and discover a little bit about the man he had become while still seeing glimpses of the young boy I knew. Although distance only allowed us to visit a few times, I treasured them and have wonderful memories with your family. You’ll have been in my thoughts and prayers so often in the past few weeks. Much love to you all!

    • Thank you sweet cousin! I, too, treasured those childhood times together. As I said to Debbie, I do wish our families lived in closer proximity. I hope you and your family are doing great.

      I love you, Nancy!

  24. Hi Susan, I am a friend of Dewi…we studied at the same university together, have met Brian couple times. As I read your post, my tears are falling..you are such a great writer. Your words, your pain, the feeling of sadness blended together…Its so beautiful and so sad, I have been through that shocked moment and still have that Grief till now. Hope time will helps you heal the pain. Stay strong.

    • Ayu,
      Thank you for leaving a comment. I don’t know what loss you sustained…but I hope by writing my own process it brings a bit of comfort. There is no way through grief but through it one tiny moment at time…and keeping our inner light shined on the blessings from the loss. This is what I try to do every morning when I wake up realizing my brother has really passed. All my love, Susan

  25. Hello Susan
    My name is Pamela. My husband Graham and I met Dewi and Brian in Bali several years ago. We were so shocked to hear of Brian’s passing and have travelled from our home in Australia recently to visit with Dewi and Sara. Our hearts go out to you and all your family. Your writing is hauntingly beautiful Susan, thank you.
    Pamela xx

    • Hi Pamela,
      Thank you for reaching out! I think Dewi will be visiting you on Sara’s birthday…is this right? My heart goes out to all of his friends and the people he touched in his short life. I’ve had the honor now of hearing from people who loved him. It makes me feel closer to him…so thank you for your message and for visiting Dewi and sweet Sara. All my love and gratitude, Susan

      • Dear Susan,
        Thank you for your reply. Yes Dewi and Sara will visit us at our home in Australia to coincide with Sara’s birthday. We thought that in some way this may help them both and give them something to look forward to. Brian was an inspirational man and will be missed by many but has left Dewi and everyone close to him a shining light in sweet Sara.
        Love and kind regards to you and your family,
        Pamela

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