Grief in a digital age is a surreal experience.
I wasn’t sure if I could go to the memorial, or if I should, but I wanted to.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be welcomed, I was worried it would be intrusive of me to show up somewhere, uninvited, knowing no one.
And I’m pretty sure Grayce wouldn’t have expected me to come.
I’ve gotten to know Grayce more and more ever since she died. People from all over the world have posted their memories of her on her facebook. We complain so much about social media, bemoaning what it has done to society, but without it, this space would not exist. All over the world, the people who would be grieving Grayce individually are now connecting and sharing and remembering.
From facebook I heard about the memorial in Minneapolis, at her parents’ farm. I connected with one of her friends there, and with another Evergreen alum who would be driving from several states away to attend.
And so I flew to Minnesota.
It was my first time in Minnesota, my first time renting a car, first time attending a memorial for a friend, first suicide, and as I exited the freeway the banks were covered in thistles and dandelions and I could almost hear whispers of botany, the poetry of the plants she studied and loved.
She sticks to our fingertips
like thistle honey
her sweetness remains on our tongues.
The hills of Minnesota were green and vibrant, and I welcomed the warmth without the humidity I’d grown accustomed to in Texas. Her parents live on a farm with no town in sight, and as I approached the base of a driveway so long you can’t see the end, three people greeted me.
The ceremony took place in front of the barn. Loved ones shared their memories, sang songs, played drums. People continued to arrive, a long procession bearing homemade food to contribute to the festivities.
Grayce loved her potlucks.
People remembered her independence, laughed at her stubborness, marveled at her adventurous spirit. Her life ended far too soon, but it was a life well lived.
She laughed from her belly, with her head thrown back.
She ate from the woods and danced with the moon.
She read in Spanish and dreamt in Turkish.
Even though she’s gone she’s left behind a sticky sweet web
gathered in the sun under a blue sky
singing songs for Grayce.
She was magic.
Sometimes, depression is terminal.
Later I sat on the grass with her friends, and one of them pulled out a salve, made with Grayce’s recipe, containing rose hips that Grayce herself had picked. She passed it around, encouraging all of us to partake in Grayce’s plant magic medicine.
Programs lay in the grass, the smile that filled her whole face peeking between green blades as people laughed and ate off of paper plates.
Online, someone posted a poem she wrote about spring, and you can hear an appetite for life, screaming, pulsing, lusting. An appetite she was no longer capable of feeling.
How much she must have longed for rains to wash away her stagnancy.
I was honored to sit in community with the people who knew Grayce better than I did, who loved her more intimately. I was afraid my grief would be appropriative, as if I don’t deserve to her mourn her when others knew her so much better, but they welcomed me. They carried me with them.
Long after the memorial was over and the sun had set, we walked down a dark trail to White Sands, on the shore of the Mississippi river. Beneath my feet the sand felt fine as ash, and it glowed in the light of the full moon. An unattended bonfire was waiting for us, which was fortunate since we’d come ill-prepared for fire making (though well-prepared for wine drinking.)
Kelsey sent her hoop around the moon and back again.
She pulled out a much smaller container of salve, one Grayce herself had made, and with reverence we each took some, rubbing into our palms what her hands had made.
She passed around a crystal that had been held by Grayce, and read aloud poems they’d written together, both serious and silly.
Sitting around a bonfire, getting to know her more and more, piecing together our stories and memories until together we’ve remembered a more complete Grayce.
We’ve shared our Grayce with each other and in sharing, grown richer.
She has brought us together.
What I remember most is her gaze, how when I ran into her on Red Square, she would stop, turn her attention fully on me, eyes bright, nodding and affirming, seeing.
And I remember how goddamn loud she would Om in the mornings.
And her stinking armpits.
And nettles. Always nettles.
On the plane ride home I wrapped myself in the dull smokey softness of my clothes, warmed by the company of so many good souls, and thought to myself, yes, Grayce would approve of this. This is what Grayce would have wanted.