Looking in on grief

He left her - this whole earth - early in spring. Her jaw was tight and tears fell silent through all our conversations. We walked down the steep hill in back and cried with her while the children swung on the swings he built, played with the dogs he loved.

Summer came and she seemed better, the tears weren't her constant companions any longer. She showed us the garden she somehow managed to plant and we marveled at the pumpkin vines growing thick amongst the weeds. Neighbors mowed her lawn and it seemed like every time we brought her a meal there was one still warm in the fridge, the gift of another helpless friend who brought food instead of words.

Autumn. She seemed to be recovering. She talked more about her children and their futures than she did the husband she lost. She seemed to be settling into a routine. Our visits slowed and I quit bringing meals (did everyone have the same thoughts, I wonder?).

It is winter now and we've all retreated inside and shut our doors against the snow and the cold. Christmas is coming. With a million memories for her? I held her last night as her body was racked by shaking sobs and her lips spilled questions I couldn't possibly answer. She is sorrow wrung and no warm meal is going to heal this wound. How do you face your first Christmas alone?