My niece is getting married in a couple weeks, a classy place in Carmel Valley that promises romance and beauty and charm. The groom is a swell guy, from San Francisco, who seems to have matured quite a bit in the six years they have been together. My sister died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma when her daughter, my niece, was seven, leaving she and her two brothers alone with their father and our family. Life carried on as we carried on. Days of celebration have always been joyful, but. I went today to my therapist to get in touch with the joy, no buts.
When my niece graduated high school, there was an empty seat beside me where I placed a yellow rose. I closed my eyes and imagined my sister there, watching her daughter get awards for English and math. I talked to her, told her stories that I pretended made her smile. When I told my niece about it, she burst into tears. Thank you, Auntie, she said to me, because everybody needs a little magic. Alchemy, it is quite a trick. Red eyes and open hearts that just about burst.
I am wondering how the wedding will be, with 200 people there but the most important one absent. How will I summon up my sister so that she can see her daughter walk the aisle with a man she would be most happy about? If I place an empty chair beside me, the bride will certainly know and cry. Yet I don't want her to be sad. My therapist suggested another way. She had me sit on a couch in the dark with little electrodes in my hands to try to touch it.
There is a loveliness in grief. It is the memory of my sister shadowing over the moment, like a tree with sunlight streaming through the substantial branches. It is green and brown with golden yellow. Feel that in your body, my therapist said. Tap into it. Let it make space somewhere new. You niece will know it in the top of her head as one knows pure chakra light. Pull the energy up and out so that it clings to the aural air around your niece like a velvety cloud. Blue sky. Four in the afternoon. The smell of lavender and grass and sage everywhere, purple, all of it, in feel.
To have real joy there must be freedom. Freedom from worry, from anxiety, from sadness. Knowing that my sister is trying hard to get to the wedding weekend is freedom, for me. I can feel her there in the happiness, in the thrill. That she will mingle with the guests, share in the poetry, pose for pictures alongside the bride, have a little fun at the party and maybe even dance. That her clear absence is her strongest presence. And she does not even need a chair.