Jack Byron, with second wife Barbara Byron. Jack was remarried to a woman he met at a youth workers conference a few years after Lois died at 54 of heart disease.
On Jan. 2, 2011, my father-in-law, Jack Byron, died. We still mourn him. We still are unable to mourn him. Grief is much bigger and more intrusive than the three bereavement days we allow it.
Grief is the elephant
that is not in the room.
So it leaves you free
to lead a fundraiser for elephant victims.
Free to buy an elephant gun
and shoot everything within 20 yards.
Free to demand that you be carried in a howdah
everywhere you go.
Free to go on safari to see that most peculiar animal —
like a wall, like a rope, like a snake.
No, you’ve never seen one.
You just know they’re dangerous.
And since there’s no elephant in the room
you can’t know what causes that foul odor
that makes the air so chokingly thick
that it clogs your eyes with tears.
It’s not an elephant
that has filled the room
in sticky, stinking shit that you couldn’t possibly dig out
even if you could find a good square-edged shovel
or a river.
And it isn’t an elephant that squashed you
unable to move
unable to decide to move
unable to want to move
unable to want.
Because there isn’t an elephant in the room.
Grief is the elephant that is not in the room.
There are so many ways we mourn, and fail to mourn, our loss of a man who, years into Alzheimers, had lost all language except two sentences:
“I love you! You are very wonderful!”
When intellect and social convention had deserted Jack, all that was left in him was the character of Christ, carefully cultivated over many decades, which offered God’s love and the very blessing of Creation to every person he met. After his death, staff at the nursing home where he spent his last days wept with his widow.
“Who will tell us they love us now?” they asked.
We must tell one another. Living in this room where there is no elephant of grief, we must tell one another of our love, and God’s love. It’s what Jack would have wanted.