Editors Note: Collateral Beauty, a beautiful piece by one of our teacher’s, Courtney Welch, will be a 3 part series focusing on each of her letters. We hope you enjoy each piece.
Written By Courtney Welch
Intro and Part One:
Love. Time. Death. These three abstractions connect every single human being on earth. Everything that we covet, everything we fear not having, everything we ultimately end up buying. Because at the end of the day, we long for love, we wish we had more time and we fear death. Love. Time. Death. — Collateral Beauty
2016 was a lot of things but the thing I will remember most about that year was losing my brother Christopher. I’ll also remember the extra time and love we shared in that last year of me living at home while trying to find my new home. Love. Time. Death.
Since then, I’ve sat with grief, worked through some of it through therapy, cooking and being outside in nature. I tried to push the feelings away. When I saw the trailer for Collateral Beauty, I couldn’t wait to see it. It seemed up-lifting and represented some of the feelings I wasn’t sharing or didn’t want to feel.
When I woke up on Jan. 1, 2017, I decided today was as good a day as any to go see it. Start the year with a positive message. The reviews on this movie are not kind. Yet after dealing with grief myself, I wasn’t disappointed. It was entertaining, I connected with the feelings and while I miss the past and already miss moments that haven’t happened yet because my brother won’t physically be there – I don’t have to miss the meaning and beauty that is here. The collateral beauty so to speak.
Just make sure you notice the collateral beauty.
This was my project for 2017. To document and share the beauty I see in this everyday moments. I hope they touch and inspire you to see the beauty in your life. I built on this and wrote my own letters to death, time and love as a therapeutic exercise. Here is the first:
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My letter to death was written to mark the one year anniversary of my Grams’ passing.
You’ve become a familiar visitor this year. My experience of you was always one of an uninvited guest. You showed up unannounced and caused such a stir that made me freeze out of fear that there would be more … more changes, more heartbreak, more loss.
It’s been a year since you took my Grams. While you’ve shown up on the doorstep of other family members and people I love, I’ve never seen you as beautiful. You’ve been dreaded, resisted and most definitely feared. And when you do show up, my response is reactionary, buckling at the knees with heartbreak, overwhelming grief and memories that don’t seem like enough.
Then you were invited.
And the whole experience changed.
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away,” Maya Angelou. It encompasses everything I experienced sitting by my Grams’ bedside for five days leading up to her final breaths. You already know this. You were in the air the moment hospice was called.
While you feel so final, so cold … I think back to those days and I remember feeling a deeper compassion than I’ve ever felt. You brought me into the present moment and gave me a deeper purpose to know that this was the only place I needed to be. You created memories as the music played and I watched my Uncle Dave help my Grams up to the restroom by gently asking her to dance. Death, you even made the small moments of assisting my Grams with wiping away the crud from her eyes or helping her taking a sip of pop feel like the most important task.
I don’t often think of you as poetry but you sure showed up that way, slow dancing us into the next chapter … A little Frank Sinatra on the radio and your invitation sitting on the side table. My grandma was ready to see her late husband on his birthday and instead you held off and gave us two more days. Two more days to shower her with love … surrounded by her family. For she had lived and loved and now there was nothing else but you. She even welcomed you with open arms: “Don’t be sad, I’m happy” were some of her final words.
There is no joy without sorrow. While you show up differently each time, the one thing you do each and every time is shine a light on what’s important and that we only have each other and right now.
Grateful for the time,