For the last few days, I have been experiencing grief like I have never felt, matched with a tender love I didn’t know I could access.  It comes in waves, where I am in the middle of a sentence or a thought, and then my breath catches and I am weeping.  I am soothed by thoughts of my family, and by the interconnection of all things.  Still, I am deeply sad.

On Sunday night, at sunset, my 90 year old grandfather crossed over. He waited to see his brother one more time, my grandma said she loved him and put him to bed at the new facility he was only in for a week (he’d never been away from her indefinitely) and an hour later, his heart stopped beating. 90 years is a good long run, no?  He is survived by his wife, my badass grandma, 5 children of which my father is the middle child, and 13 grandchildren, of which I am eldest.  If you do the math, I knew this man for 30 years, a third of his life.  In those 30 years, I have memories so sweet, that I often wonder how I got so lucky.

My grandpa was what you would call “the strong silent type”.  One of my dad’s cousins described him as the John Wayne of the family.  He was steady and constant, and everyone who knew him, knew Mike was a stand-up guy.  He courted my grandma because he knew her older brothers.  When he talked about dating her in high school (she is about 5 years his junior) he would always start with “When Anne and I was keepin’ company…” and that’s what he did for 64 years.  He kept her company.  He did this while working long hours as a mechanic, while quitting smoking and saving for a whole year the money he would have spent on cigarettes so he could buy his family a beautiful Easter meal, and while raising 5 kind and hilarious children, my dear family.

This is the man who was my emergency contact at school when my parents couldn’t get me.  If I spiked a fever, he’d be there to pick me up and take me home.  When my parents were working longer hours and my brother and I needed childcare, he’d come over after school and sit through hours of Monopoly with us.  When I was really little and the botanical garden he volunteered at had a “Spooky Walk” for Halloween, my parents took me- but I was so scared in the middle of it.  Out of the woods, my grandpa came.  He scooped me up and ran me out a side exit.  I always felt so safe when I was near him.  He would let my cousins and I take the black comb out of his shirt pocket and comb his hair and put all kinds of bows and clips in it.  On the outside, he seemed stern, but with us- he was silly and sweet. His calm and steady presence was almost monk-like in its nature.  That same presence let me drive his luxurious Crown Victoria when I was 17.  He just sat next to me, and let me drive.  He trusted me, and I him.

He was a man of few words, and near the end, almost none.  There were days he wouldn’t speak at all, but when I’d call and my grandma would say “Mike!! It’s Danielle on the phone!” he’d croak out “I love you Danielle.”  Those were the only words that really mattered.  On days he was silent, he would sit and hold my hand, and as I type this I weep, remembering still how sweetly he would look at me, how he would tear up when I left.

As I experience this grief and this loss, I also experience a deep love and support. Life comes in these dichotomies. Usually it’s my mother who calls with the hard news.  This time, it was my dad and I am so grateful for that.  When I saw my grandma yesterday. she reminded me that he wouldn’t want me to be sad, that he loved me, and that he’s happier now.  I know all of these things to be true.  My grandpa was a religious man, but in a way that comforted me.  He never forced it on me, and I would only go to church services when I was with him because I liked to hold his hand and I loved to be part of his ritual.  If there is heaven, the one that my grandpa believed in- I am sure he is there.  I am sure God has called him home because his work here was done. And he did some damn good work. I believe his work was dedication and devotion to his family and a deep kindness that cannot be taught, but only lived into.   How profoundly lucky I am to be able to carry it forward.

I remember him always singing me this song:

“I love you a bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck
A hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap
A barrel and a heap and I’m talkin’ in my sleep”

I love you too. May angels lead you in.



an open letter to the men who couldn’t hold me

Dearest former loves of my life,

I am writing to tell you that it isn’t your fault.  How could you have known how much fire you were getting yourself into?  How could you have known the depths that I hold?  You didn’t know you’d get lost in there, in all of that divine wisdom and power.  I imagine it must be terrifying to realize that the woman (and that word doesn’t hold half of what we really are) with which you fell in love, could hold so much, could be so much, could attract and radiate and expand, SO MUCH.  In a world where the masculine is usually synonymous with power and control, you must have felt so small in comparison, so helpless upon witnessing my earthly being containing multitudes beyond it.  How could that much divinity and beauty reside in such a small body?  “How does she keep all those stars in there?”-you must have wondered.  You must have felt like you couldn’t offer anything.

To be clear, I never needed you.  I wanted you.  I wanted a divine and courageous partner, to see me and hold me, and lift me up to the light that not only exudes from me, but needs me to step into it, over and over again.  I wanted you to hear my name and melt, because that’s how I felt when I heard yours.  I wanted someone who was not afraid to say they were afraid.  Don’t you get it?  I didn’t care that you were scared of the power that I held, that I continue to hold.  The only thing I needed from you was to stand in that fear and dive in with me.

But you couldn’t.  And it’s not your fault.  And it’s not the alcohol, or the toxic conditioning from your father, or your parents’ divorce, or any other reason that separates you from your ability to heal and truly love with humility, compassion and honesty.  It’s the simple fact that you are scared that by stepping into my own power, that I will somehow diminish yours.  My sweet loves, it doesn’t work that way.

So when I am crying alone, because you have again told me that I am too much, that I require too much, and that you can’t give me what I need, I’ll listen.  When you tell me that I give too much, and that I love so much, and that I am so sweet, too sweet, I’ll listen.  I won’t waste that on you anymore.  I won’t waste this gift I have been given; the gift of loving so fully that I see the light in you when you cannot see it in yourself.  I consciously search out your light and hold it up to you in the darkness, and if that is too much for you, then so be it.  I will wait.  I will light my own way.  I will find my own way home, and one day there will be a person waiting there, holding up the light for me.

I wish you every good thing.  I love you for the mirror you held up to me. Take care and be kind to the next woman and hold her in the light. She will undoubtedly be the one.



P.S. I wrote the women a poem, here- take it.

he knows not
what he misses
every curve of
a woman
will remind him
of your perfect body
the one he held
not tightly enough
the body that held
so infinite
he wouldn’t know how to
bow at it
to it
for it.

you are worlds
than he can hold

It’s not his fault
you are stars
and fire
too bright
It’s not his fault
that you are a gem
in which he saw his reflection
It’s not your fault
that he was not
the one to hold the light

You kindle your own
fire now

without pause
or hesitation
you are yours
to love again