Grief speaks.

And, last week, it declared, “Here I am, Mallory! I’m not going anywhere and this time, I cannot be ignored.”

 I had just returned to Seattle from the funeral of my paternal Grandmother, the last of my grandparents to see this side of Heaven. Nine months earlier, I had attended the funeral of my maternal Grandmother, a painful loss in the midst of a busy trimester, which led me to subconsciously and regrettably stuff my grief to the side for the sake of classes, work, and composure.

In the months since that first funeral of 2012, losses have accumulated. Death, ruptured relationships, illnesses of loved ones and the painfully beautiful process of reconstructing how I understand myself and the world around me, have all piled up unforgivingly. Even still, when I walked into our little red brick building after the funeral last week, I was prepared to focus on writing my papers and fulfilling the responsibilities of my job, while energetically participating in our community. I headed straight for a cubicle in the library, pulled out my laptop and…cried. Oh my God, I cried. My cheeks were met with more tears in that morning than they had felt in nearly an entire year. I sobbed in the library, in the chapel, and in 4th floor offices for hours, asking how I was actually going to be able to “do life” in the midst of this season, and yet suddenly realizing that I have never really integrated grief with life.

Care and compassion. They speak, too.

And, last week, they spoke through the powerful, love-soaked actions of so many people inside this little red brick building. My tears didn’t come to an immediate end and it took a great deal of time for any of my assigned papers to find a beginning; but the grace, the hugs, the conversation and the comforting sympathetic glances from others declared, “It’s okay. You don’t have to try and pull yourself together.” I’m not sure I was able to land on clear and concise answers to my big questions about how grief and life can work together but suddenly, I found that I was doing it – both of them, grief and life  – simultaneously. I was doing them both because I am in this community that allows, even begs, for both to be coexisting in our lives, wholly and authentically.

Never have I felt so invited to simply not be okay. I walk around the school with mascara painted all over my tear-stained cheeks, verbally unloading onto unsuspecting classmates and professors. I might step out of class early, totally zone out during discussions, or fall completely short of the expectations I’ve set for myself; and, even still, the voices of care and compassion in this little red building say, “Bless you. Bless your grief. Bless your tears. Bless your missed expectations.”

That’s the thing about this little red building; you step inside and you’re suddenly immersed in this odd sort of counter-culture. When the funeral is over and the rest of the world says, “Get back to work,” the people inside the little red counter-cultural building say, “Grieve on. This is your work.” Because where there is life, there will be grief. They can co-exist and, in fact, they must.

And so, with gratefulness to so many of you, I will honor them both – this ongoing journey through grief and this one sweet life.

But first, I might need to invest in some waterproof mascara.