My elderly mom, out grocery shopping, is mugged not far from home. In bright light she is thrown to the ground and robbed of purse, vitality, and wobbly confidence. I, useless as a bowling pin, do not rush to her side, not by road, river, runway, sky. Tremulous voices steer a course, measured mouthfuls, the telephone astride my chest like a luckless charm. In time she rights herself, retraces daily routes to shops, dad’s grave, fast walks through empty fields, with fierce intent.
A friend of mine, severely ill, whose spirit rises every morning while she can but lie, does not share her mother’s dying hours, nor attend the funeral. Her grief, of which she cannot speak, her devastation, remain unbounded by communal rituals. Processing is inner, remembrance alone.
Not being there when we need to be, want to be, is felt, by us, no matter what the circumstances, as failed fidelity, incurring a debt of love.