But this isn’t fiction. Sometimes a story is not about anything except what it is about. Sometimes you wake up and find that you actually have lost your nose. Losing my mother’s wedding ring in the Tongue River was not ok. I did not feel better for it. It was not a passage or a release. What happened is that I lost my mother’s wedding ring and I understood that I was not going to get it back, that it would be yet another piece of my mother that I would not have for all the days of my life, and I understood that I could not bear this truth, but that I would have to.
Healing is a small and ordinary and very burnt thing. And it’s one thing and one thing only: it’s doing what you have to do. It’s what I did then and there. I stood up and got into my truck and drove away from a part of my mother. The part of her that had been my lover, my wife, my first love, my true love, the love of my life.
–From “The Love of My Life” by Cheryl Strayed
In browsing blogs last week I came across a reference to the above essay by Cheryl Strayed, published in Sun Magazine, and I was incredibly moved. These are the just the last two paragraphs of the three-page piece where Strayed talks about the process of grief and healing she underwent after her mother’s death. For those familiar with her book Wild, it’s a bit of a prequel to her solo travels on the Pacific Crest Trail.
I thought Wild was a great read, but this essay actually reminds me more of her book Tiny Beautiful Things, which blew me away with its elegantly raw prose. Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of Strayed’s writings as a then-anonymous advice columnist for The Rumpus, and it’s a read that I’d highly recommend, no matter what state of life you find yourself in right now. I’m not actively grieving anyone in particular at the moment, but I was happy to have another dose of her clarity and worldly writing through “The Love of My Life.”