I then started to wonder where I could get some of that. I want to be a cheerful survivor. I'm very good at gallows humor, gutting it through, and empathy but I want to work on my cheerful survivor chops. I want to have the chutzpah to relax into the turbulence instead of thrashing determinedly.
This is becoming more important to me now that the life of a survivor of suicide loss is less of a postcard I look at wondering who on earth would have mistakenly sent it to me and more of a package I unwillingly carry around because I don't know where to put it. I found myself thinking the other night that through a strange series of connections, addictions, and errors, my aunt's death is one of the late casualties of the Vietnam war. "If there were no such thing as agent orange then..." This is fruitless thinking. It heals me not a jot. (And ain't auspicious!)
I follow a similar fruitless line of thinking on my grandmother's sadness. "If her mother had not died so young..." I think, and then I imagine this line of history threading from the 1930's to today where everything would have been different. This is regret, not optimism. This line of thinking fails to take into account the innumerable blessings in the lives of we, her descendants, that come from that flawed line which connects the young mother who died suddenly in rural Virginia to my giggling children running about acting like Bengal tigers 80 years later.
If there's any lesson from my grandmother's travails, or my aunt's suicide, it is the Shucker's lesson. We are going to be alright. We may need to put some blinders on to the woes of the world for awhile, but we will survive.
Today when I am overcome by the empty awful feeling of no going back that comes with grief; today when I heard my aunt's beloved Jackson Browne haunting me through the radio; today as more bad news comes about the Shucker's homeland I try on the weight of the cheerful survivor. If misery changes the world I see, I can have some control on how blurry or defined the picture is, can't I?