Sages come in all shapes and sizes. In my house, there is one that stands less than five feet tall.

When asked what she’d like to do on the third anniversary of her dad’s passing, my daughter said, “something that mixes ‘the sad’ and ‘the glad’.” She was salting eggplant, having recently taken an interest in using her dad’s grill. As we talked, she never looked up from her work. She reached  for the olive oil with a kitchen swagger that made me smile. She didn’t elaborate, she had made her point. I knew exactly what she meant.

Here’s the nitty gritty about loss three years out. It’s alway there, right along side much of the rest of life – joy, disappointment, anticipation, excitement, worry, discovery, love. When you’re walking through the landscape of a profound loss, it can make everyday moments vibrate at a deeper level. In my daughter’s case, for example, the disappointment of perhaps not getting gelato from our favorite neighborhood gelateria after dinner can feel bigger because it’s something she likes doing in honor of her dad. In my case, the excitement of signing on to a new project is made more poignant because I wish my husband were here to share the moment. Loss, at the end of the day, makes us sensitive to LIFE – fully, completely; “the sad” and “the glad” of it.

This weekend, as she and I consciously mark the three year anniversary, we have decided to do one thing – make room for whatever emotion may find us. A fragrant, cross breeze or the site of peach blossoms bursting from the bud can instantly transport, reminding me of that critical spring I spent saying a final goodbye. Yet, also seeing the self-satisfied light in my daughter’s eyes when she cracks herself up whenever she retells her dad’s favorite joke is the special joy that sits beside my grief. But I won’t lie. It ain’t easy. In fact, the work of consciously making space for both can be the hardest thing one can ever attempt to do. Still we try. And we grill eggplant.

In Sicily, when a person is grieving, someone (even a stranger) will take them by the hand, look them in the eye and say these words, “Tiara avanti.” It means quiet literally “Pull yourself forward.” My mother-in-law and I say to each other, more so each spring. I value that saying for the sage, old-world advice it is. I rub on it like a lucky penny in my pocket. I work to remember it. And, yes, I say it to myself when no one else is there to say it to me.  And these three years on, I have also tweaked it. Today, I think of the action of “pulling” myself forward as also the action of “remembering” my way forward – through all “the sad” and “the glad” of it.

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