My sister lost her husband last week and we are going to Minnesota for his memorial this weekend. He wanted Glenda to have an informal gathering of friends and family at their house to remember, laugh, and cry.
Yesterday, she e-mailed me and the other two sisters a long 'to do' list. It is full of things like "rent tables and chairs", and "clean the patio". I was very relieved to get this list. I've been spending the week since my last conversation with John feeling his loss, but not knowing what to do about it. Glenda's list helped give me "little chores", as Mother used to call them, to help focus my grief.
It reminded me of the days after Mother died. Each evening we four girls would gather at the kitchen table and go through our 'to do' lists. We took comfort in the busy-ness of cleaning, writing thank you notes, making phone calls.
As I reflect on this, I think we react to grief in this way for several reasons. One being that we have the good old protestant work ethic that makes us want everything just right for our guests. But deeper than that, I think we need these chores because they are something over which we have control. We can make decisions about how the chores will be completed and we can see that they are completed on our schedules. These situations follow a time period where we had no control. Sickness and Death pay no attention to our schedules or decisions. We are swept along into the world of dying with few options, none of them pleasant. We need the 'to do' lists to help us regain some semblance of control. And control has always been a pretty big issue with the women in my family.
Thank you, Glenda, for sending the list. And a special thank you to Tori and Royce who will be the List Czarinas. I, for one, am grateful for this way to channel my grief and regain some control.