Fitting the Pieces Together

After my father’s sudden death four years ago, my mother spent nearly every waking moment working jigsaw puzzles. For more than a year, she sat sorting, moving, fitting piece after piece to create the final picture. Hour upon hour. Like a Buddhist monk creating a sand mandala. As soon as she fit the last piece in one puzzle, she tore it apart and reached for another.

Her life was in chaos. She created order out of a thousand one-inch pieces because she could not, was not ready to create a new order in her life. As her hands worked, her mind let go. As much as possible, she ignored the present, even listening to WWII music, the music of her youth, the music she danced and sang to before my father entered her life.

Gradually, her puzzle obsession waned. My father was gone. She was not. Life would go on.

The death of a loved one is surely the most severe disruption of our lives, but no matter what has knocked us off kilter it takes time and patience to get back on track. We have to sort out what went wrong and then, piece by piece, form a new picture.

Time and patience. I need them both.

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Update: After a couple comments, I see this post has caused some unintended concern. I am all right.

16 thoughts on “Fitting the Pieces Together

  1. I’m glad you already wrote back to Cathryn, because I was worried, too. Even if it’s not some major upset, I’m sorry to hear that the accumulation of small ones has set you back. 😦 Bottoming out sounds like misery.

    Well. Have some wine, eat some strawberries, curl up with a good book and read, watch old Lost episodes. Maybe those will help in that time between bottoming out and heading up, which (hopefully) won’t last too long at all. 🙂 I’ll pray for you, too, friend!

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    1. Thank you, too, Kayla. I just added an update to my post. Yesterday was the anniversary of my father’s death, and I was really just reflecting on how we learn to let go and move on. I didn’t intend to alarm anyone. I’ll explain what’s going on with me in my next post.

      Wine and Lost is always a good thing. 🙂 I need to catch up on True Blood and Treme too. I guess I just planned my evening.

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  2. Well, I can certainly relate to this. I’ve experienced much loss in my life. This was beautifully expressed. It’s sort of how I’ve been feeling, out of sorts and I’m slowly putting the pieces together. It’s not tragic. It’s a leg.

    In reference to your comment on my blog: I will pray that you get to Ireland one day. For now, it is my own personal medicine, my joy, my tomorrow. I have to go. I can’t NOT go.

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    1. Thank you, Mary. Enjoy your trip to the fullest.

      I appreciate your honesty in blogging about your personal struggle. I’m not sure that’s something I feel comfortable doing here, but I will blog about how mine has affected my writing. One step up at a time, right?

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  3. On a similar coincidental note, just prior to reading this post I was talking to a friend about dying parents; your mother did better than my step mom. My dad died suddenly and unexpectedly six years ago. For the next year, she just spiraled down into sadness, then shut down emotionally, then died of a sudden aneurism. Truly a case of not wanting to live without her husband.

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  4. I had a more selfish response to this post, Linda, because I felt that it was reflective and not current. First, it is a poignant description of how one can cope with grief. And then, I love the simplicity of your mother’s solution to “putting the pieces back together” and it’s something I believe I’ll try the next time I’m falling apart.

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  5. Linda, this is just a lovely post. Hope you’ll incorporate the idea of working on jigsaw puzzles b/c you can’t put your own life in order into a story or novel.

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    1. Thank you, Cynthia. That’s an interesting idea, to incorporate puzzle working in a story. In my latest novel, I have a character who obsessively records his memories in journals to avoid grieving his loss.

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