The Middle Ground of Grief

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshopped faces of missing passengers from malaysian Airlines Flight 370 onto a Malaysian batik design.After I finished my son’s chocolates I started on the microwave popcorn in the pantry. When all six bags of the popcorn were gone I found cookies in the freezer. Riveted in front of the television, I ate recklessly. For the whole week.

“How can you lose an airplane?” I asked the TV screen that glowed maps of islands and oceans with red arrows.

On the third day of the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, CNN News aired a gathering of the passengers’ family members. That’s when it hit me: 239 people were lost. Not just a plane. In the crowd, a man cried out for his son. Even in Chinese, I knew the anguish. It transported me back to the days just before my daughter’s death, when I waited and wished for a miracle.

“Middle ground,” my sister had explained in those first days of March 2011, “is a place somewhere in between knowing that you’re winning the war and when you get those first inklings that you’re gonna lose. It doesn’t mean anyone’s giving up. But it’s a first step toward that end, an end that no one is ready to acknowledge.” The miracle didn’t come. I hovered over the hospital bed to memorize my daughter’s face.

By the sixth day, I was tuning into the TV first thing upon waking and every other hour until bedtime. Between Lost and Found is the sweet time when people hold onto threads of hope that stretch thinner with each passing minute. The eighth day I prayed it was a terrorist hijacking. Maybe the passengers were hostages somewhere in Kazakhstan?

Lost is not knowing one’s whereabouts, unable to find one’s way. Lost means something has vanished. One can be lost forever. But there is a certain finality to being found. Once found, what you thought you lost turns into a welcome event. Or it is truly lost, cannot be recovered. And hope is yanked away completely.

It is Monday, the eleventh day. I mindlessly eat a bowl of leftover tiramisu in front of the TV as the mystery of Flight 370 continues. I crave sweetness and still wait, along with the family members of the lost passengers, wishing for a miracle.

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12 thoughts on “The Middle Ground of Grief

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    I feel you sitting there, waiting, transfixed. I think we learn to remember those losing people they love, because we’ve been in that middle ground and in the after ground. After Vic died, there was this huge sense of mystery? Where did Vic and Marika go? Where did the plane and the people go? So much mystery–with more than a taste of foreboding. I wish I had some tiramisu, but don’t dare keep anything like that in the house.

    Reply
    1. robinbotie.com

      Well you’ve hit on my lifelong wonder: where does the life go? I’m actually working on a small Photoshop book now about that. I’m hoping to make a non-religious comforting booklet to share with friends dealing with loss of loved ones. Some of us make photoshopped pics and tiramisu. And then there are those talented enough to make Comfort Soup. Like you. Cheers!

      Reply
  2. Annette Corth

    What a generous and thoughtful idea to extend your grieving to include those aboard the lost plane and to their bereaved famlies. As usual, Robin, your use of language is superb, to say nothing of the wonderful image you created. I can hardly wait for your next posting.

    Annette Corth

    Reply
    1. robinbotie.com

      Hi Annette. Yeah, I’m still checking the TV for progress on finding these people. It’s not generous so much as I’m consumed by the sadness of more mothers losing children, more children losing fathers, …. I just want to see pain end and healing begin. Which is impossible while there’s still a speck of hope for the miracle we’d all love to see. Hugs! And thanks SO MUCH for responding.

      Reply
  3. Kirsten Wasson

    This is written with such poignant details. And how human to wait and wish for a miracle. . .
    a beautiful piece.

    Reply
    1. robinbotie.com

      Thank you my Juice Woman in LA who knows better than to wait around for the miracle but gets up and out and makes miracles happen on her own. Cheers!

      Reply
  4. Lynne Taetzsch

    Robin, I can so relate to what you are experiencing: the sensitivity to others’ losses. I found, too, that after I lost Adrian, I was much more emotionally involved in every other loss I came across. And eating the sweets–I still find myself binging every so often–searching the pantry and refrigerator for whatever I might find. It doesn’t fill the hole of grief, but it fills something.

    Lynne

    Reply
    1. robinbotie.com

      Hi Lynne,
      Exactly, it fills something. And adds some tangible sweetness to bitter times. Oh, and sensitivity – I used to get through the saddest movies without a tear. Since my daughter died, I am a wet mess anytime I see or hear of someone crying. I love that name, Adrian.

      Reply
  5. M.

    Robin, your post conveys a pure and profound connection to loss. It is as if a single thread joins only those who recognize such an organic pain. It amazes me when writers’ are abel to convey this to their readers so that the readers get it in some small way. I got it when I read your post. You’ve reminded is of our obligation to compassion. blessings
    Mary

    Reply
    1. robinbot Post author

      Thank you, Mary. I appreciate your reading my post and responding. I’m flattered and glad my writing has touched you. I never thought I could find humanity and kindness, compassion, in this little box on my desk called a computer. I used to yell at my kids for spending so much time on the computer. But when people reach out and communicate online, the potential for sharing and healing is beyond amazing. Cheers!

      Reply
  6. Carrie Stearns

    Robin,
    I can feel how your loss opens you to so much of what being a human is… Grief can open the heart like nothing else and what comes forth in this writing is a powerful sense of compassion. Thank you.
    Carrie Stearns

    Reply
    1. robinbotie.com

      Thank you, Carrie. Yes, so much changed when my daughter died. She made me into a bigger, more open person. There’s a poem Marika and I used to sing, The “I see the moon” song. There’s a line in one of the verses, “I had a heart as good as new and now it’s gone from me to you,” that I feel happened in our story. I’m walking around with 2 hearts now. Cheers!

      Reply

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