A huge part of grief is wanting to belong. Grief and fear isolate us, so we try to find ways to become part of a group again. I have never gone to church; I have attended multiple candle vigils in my life, but have never truly felt a part of anything. When I am sad, I tend to isolate myself from groups. I stay in my apartment, which somehow always seems safer, because I can control it. I’ve found many people grieving different ways. A lot of us our surprised at this. People (me) who make fun of marathoners don’t fully understand the need to stay in marathon coats, and yet I have been wearing the same Red Sox shirt for days. People who were in sororities and fraternities are joining together to fundraise. Somehow, in grief we expect to be similar to each other.
But even in grief we are the same people that were before the tragedy. I was at the Red Sox game on Monday, and Napoli’s hit promised a perfect day. I waited outside the baseball tavern irritated by the crowds, wanting to head to other Boylston bars, but people told me lines would be just as long. When we heard something explode, we didn’t think too much about it. I thought it was a stink bomb (I work with kids) and when I saw all of the police cars and ambulance cars storm by, I thought they were just trying to get home. This is me. Trying to protect myself. My father, in his South end apartment, heard the same thing, and he knew it was an explosion (he was in Vietnam).
I find myself trying to avoid the news like a Yankees fan. Right now, I am writing from a bar, switched seats with someone, so I could keep focused on the interfaith ceremony. Yet last night, I had to see the National Anthem for the Bruins. To me, this is less about America, and more about Boston. But again, that’s me. Opening Day has always been bigger than the fourth of July. So I am finding comfort in what I know, what I have always belonged too. I have been trying not to cry, but the tears keep creeping in. Middlebrooks shoe. 617 Strong. This is what allows me to grieve. This is where I belong. It is always where I have belonged. I have never needed to be told to wear Boston clothes, because I already do. I have my Orr shirt for traveling. My Red Sox hat for traveling when there is no time for a shower. And this is why, I can’t watch the news. But I can weep to the sight of Sean Thornton singing. And Renee being more quiet than usual.
More than ever, we need to understand we are all different. And that makes for different grievers. Right now, I am less about being strong, and more about being forgiving. Forgiving myself for crying. Forgiving people whose stories keep pulling me back. Forgiving the bar with the news that tells me nothing, except those three people are still dead. I suppose this is a version of being strong. A version of Boston strong I have not seen before. A time when we can put our cynicism on the back burner, well, except for maybe Shaughnessy.
We don’t need to change from this, only remember no one else does either. This is okay. This is what makes our city beautiful. Different types of people cohabitating, all caring- just in different ways.