This trembling, slim stem of a girl, barely held together by her carefully just-applied makeup, could not move. She stood quaking, tears breaking through her lashes, clearly about to shatter – I saw that she simply could not enter the room of her dying aunt. I quickly put an arm around her and swooped her back down the stairs. We practically ran. Together, in sync. I could feel her vulnerability attaching her to me, surrendering in her overwhelming grief to my care and decisive motion.
I knew she needed to run away. I envisioned taking her hand and running out of the house with her, running up and down the hilly streets as far away and as fast as we could go. Running and running together until she could let go and cry it all out. And then we would return and walk calmly up the stairs and directly into the room of her dying aunt, flowers held firmly in her hand, ready.
Instead we just ran downstairs. I gave her a mug of tea and told her to take her time. I could see she was too fragile in that moment to be hugged; she disappeared into the bathroom. When she emerged ready to try again, I walked with her, and she entered her aunt’s room clutching her flowers. Later, with few words, gratitude and understanding passed between us as we hugged goodbye.
But I often think of running her out of that house and through streets and fields, running fast and hard and far together, both of us crying out our sorrow, horror, fear and love. Until we were ready to return and face the worst with unwavering grace.