|Photo courtesy of|
Another friend recently had to bid farewell to a plot of land that had been in her family for many, many years. To some, this might not strike as a reason for grief. To me, it hit home profoundly. I am from a tiny community in East Tennessee that is so small we've only had a stop light at our one major intersection for about 10 years. My childhood home is land that is up on the side of a ridge, tucked away and so obscure on back roads that you have to know it's there to know it's there! It is peaceful, quiet and to my eyes, beautiful beyond words.
There has been a lot of noise about a road plan that could end up running right over the top of this property, with the state of Tennessee being able to declare Eminent Domain and force us to sell the land. While I admit this has been going on since the mid-1990s with no true progress, just the thought of this possibly happening is enough to strike dread and fear into my heart. I am bound to that land and have always dreamed of building a home there.
My friend who had to bid farewell to her family land is going through a grieving process that hurts my heart for her. I won't go into specific details on the reasons the land was sold, but I know she has endless childhood memories of that land. Endless days of playing in the woods, exploring, creating fantastic games of fantasy. Hot summer days of gardening, weeding plants as the sun blazed down. Balmy evenings lying under the trees watching lightning bugs twinkling as the evening shadows painted sunset across the sky. I imagine she can tell stories about every tree, every woodland path, every field, stream and wildflower patch.
She was fortunate to be able to have enough notice to say some proper goodbyes prior to the final sale of the property. She walked the land, taking pictures of everything that held memories for her, and whispered her goodbyes. I know she cried throughout the whole day, as this is what I would do and feel myself. She was raised out in the country, as I was, and taught an appreciation for the land that goes very deep. Some people might not appreciate or understand this, and that's okay. It may be unique to me and this friend, or perhaps each of you reading this are nodding your heads in agreement and feeling a sympathetic sting of tears and sadness for what this girlfriend experienced.
No, land is not a person. It doesn't die, per se. But it does Live. It is a living, breathing, nurturing presence. Calm, quiet...patient as the ages, land harbors us without protest, allowing us to trample, to build, to grow. That plot of land out in the country of East Tennessee harbored my girlfriend and her family with love, of this I'm certain. I feel it entirely appropriate and logical that my friend is grieving the loss of her childhood sanctuary. I know that she is going through those stages of grief as surely as she would if it were a person she was bidding farewell to. Losing family land is one of the most intimate losses I can imagine, and I wish with all my heart that she had never had to experience this.
I found myself smiling at her Facebook descriptions of walking the land, photographing everything she could think of, down to pebbles scattered across a dirt road. Yes, I would do that too. I hope that she has enough photographs taken that somewhat soothe that empty spot in her heart for that land. She will always yearn for the opportunity to drive out there and roam the land on a whim. She will always remember the happy times in her mind's eye. Nothing, however, will give her back that special connection to that land.
The key to the grief process, for me, is to accept that change is inevitable. We are left with no choice but to find a way to keep living without that vital presence that we once had. Be it a person, or a place, it hurts on a visceral level to say a permanent goodbye. There are no easy ways, no short cuts to the journey of healing the loss. For me, some losses are years old and I still experience moments of loss that are so sharp it is as though it happened only hours ago. Yes, time does heal and soften those jagged edges. We go on. We are forever changed from the loss, and sometimes not always in positive ways, but we do go on.
Is the loss of family land worthy of a blog post? I think it is. I recognize the gravity and emotion of such an event, and part of my heart just broke for my friend who had to walk that path of loss. I don't know what the sale of her land will produce. I hope that perhaps other families will build homes there and grace the land with laughter and love. Perhaps in that small way, the loss would be a bit more bearable for her. Should the reason be for another type of commerce, then all I can hope is that she finds solace in her memories and photographs. The land will not die a true death, of course. Land is a constant. It morphs and changes over time with construction and becomes something new.
So, as is the case for most of us with personal loss, my friend will tuck the memories away in her heart and mind's eye. She will reminisce with family members about this tree, or that rock, or that field and for short moments, they will be back there again, awash in the security and golden haze of childhood. I hope that in some small way those moments will ease and soothe her.
*Special thanks to Lisa Brandel for inviting me to share my thoughts on her wonderful blog, The Widow Lady. I hope many of you will take a moment to visit her blog and read her work.