When I think of “grief”, I think of so many emotions swirled into one. Grief carries me in so many different directions. The most familiar one is a place of sadness. Then there is the depth of the sadness. It can be a tap on the shoulder or it can go deep. But grief has so many other layers. Anxiety, regret, longing, and anger. All of the faces of grief are inextricably tied to love. It is because of the love, that the grief lives.
Anger is not a place that I frequently visit. About six months ago, I was in Maya’s room, and I forgot what it was, but anger came knocking on my door. I was very angry. Very angry at Maya. Angry at her not being here. Her choice. My missing, my regret, my should haves, my longing, and even Maya’s room. I spiraled.
I looked around. Over the years, the room has undergone mild transformation. We rearranged some wall hangings, I brought more plants in, and during Covid times, I even created a little Zoom station for myself. Through the intense times of the pandemic, I felt comforted among Maya’s art, plants and the light. It was still Maya’s room. It has been her room from birth through the day she died. We still refer to it as “Maya’s room.” I have a sense that will never change.
The anger I experienced of a few months back, had a certain activation. It landed in her room. “What are we even doing? How is it that we are keeping this room as Maya’s room?” The bed spoke to me. There it was. Beautiful, solid wood, bathed in many sleeps and dreams. So many memories of me putting Maya to sleep there, and then slinking off and like a snake, silently slithering on the floor out of her room in the hopes that I wouldn’t wake her. This was the only bed she ever had. In my angry place, I realized this precious bed is just taking up too much space. It is defining the room. I felt it was finally time for it to find a new home.
Giving away a bed in New Paltz has too much charge. Everyone would know whose bed this was, and it would not be comfortable for whoever claimed it as their own. It was in such great condition, we could not bring it to the dump.
Our mission began. Our first impulse was to donate it to the local Tibet Center. They have a thrift store; funds from the sales support people in Tibet. Given Maya’s connection to that region, how poetic that would be. But no, the Tibet Center was not taking furniture at this time. Next stop was FAMILY. Again, serving people in need. Perhaps someone moving to a home or apartment could use it. Yet again, they were not taking furniture. We then reached out to another nonprofit. This organization serves victims and survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual violence and other types of crime victimization.
Their response is that they did not have anywhere to store a bed, and no way to pick it up, but on occasion, there is a need. Could we bring it to the place of need, when a call is made? “Absolutely!” In time, we got the call. We could not bring the bed on that Saturday, but Sunday would work. Before the day came, I spent some time in Maya’s bed. The last time. Fifteen years of memories and dreams played before me. Tears streamed and I was feeling ready. No longer angry. Just tender. Tender for this powerful layer of good-bye and tenderness knowing that this bed will have a new life.
The case manager had arranged for the bed recipient to meet us in front of the building at a given hour. For whatever reason (perhaps being human), I had imagined delivering the bed to a mother with her young children. “The bed would go to a child” was my story. My image of a child was close; she was a child with a twist. The person standing before me was barely out of her teenage years navigating a challenging moment that should be beyond her years. She was so grateful, and actually shared that “we saved her life’. I shared with her, “no! You saved your life!” I can only imagine the situation in which she left. I honor her courage and strength. As we were leaving, she was tuning into her online GED class. We noticed post-it notes including affirmations on the wall by the doorway.
My anger drove me to act. The action became compassion and now I have hope. Maya’s room in time will take on a new life. We do not have any plans for it right now; we are allowing the plants to enjoy the light as they spread into the space. I feel grateful knowing that Maya’s bed, is now giving this brave survivor some comfort, a safe night’s sleep and allowing for new memories and dreams.
Photos of Maya in her bedroom were from January 2008. She was a bit over seven years old. Last photo is of her bedroom in transformation.