Bett Norris


I Wish I Had Class

There is a grief counselor coming to our office today. We lost a coworker and friend last Thursday, July 20. Lost is a good word for it. We lost her. She is gone.

Louise was quiet, calm, and I always felt a sense of reservation about her, a centered dignity that I admired. We called her Saint Louise because she never lost her patience with the taxpayers we deal with every day. I admired her, and I respected her. I wish I had her class.

Louise was one of the few people I talked to about my writing. We shared a love for the history of the civil rights movement, and a deep sense of pride when the nation elected its first person of color to the presidency. Louise got to attend the inaugeration in Washington. I was envious, and she shared her photos with me when she returned.

Louise and I both came from large, loving families. Her husband Abraham has Alabama roots, so he and I talked Alabama football.

The thing about grief is this. It brings back other losses. For the last few days, I have been revisited by the grief over the death of my mother, so fresh it seems like it happened yesterday. And other losses too, come back and make new cuts in scar tissue I thought had healed: my brother’s death to cancer, my stepfather’s sudden death from a heart attack, the loss of my nephew, they all come back to me and they hurt again, just as much as when they happened.

These waves roll over me and push me down. I am awash with memories, tears, and hurt.

I miss Louise. I worked with her every day for eleven years, and many in our office worked with her for decades.

The thing about grief is, it knows no boundaries. It hurts us all equally. It shouldn’t hurt me as much as someone else who knew Louise lomger and better than I did. But grief does not make distinctions like that. The shock, the sense of loss, the anger, the pain and tears, none are measured according to how long you know someone, or how close you were. Grief strikes like a cudgel, indiscriminately, heavily, and disregards silent pleas that you be passed over this time because you already had your beating.

I tried not to cry, tried not to feel anything, but grief slips in whether you brace yourself or not. Grief says I have more tears and pain to bear, and I can carry them because of Louise, or I can pay more on account of my mother, my brother, my stepfather, my nephew. I have a debt to pay to grief, it seems, and I don’t get to see the tally sheet.

I don’t get to know when I have paid enough. Grief just comes and takes from me.


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