Guys, I’m going to need your help. The past few weeks have been littered with one emotional hurdle after another and I’m struggling to get my head around it all. Professionally speaking, things are great! Lots of promo work and networking gigs but nothing I can’t handle.

It’s the personal elements of my life that are off-tilt. I liken recent events to an internal see-saw, lifting me up to sweet resplendent glory before sending me crushing into an umami flavored purgatory. We’ve all been there.

More often than not, I write what I see, what I observe, what affects the people around me, and what’s to come. My friends and family are a cornucopia of material. What you read isn’t always perfect; my characters are flawed as are the people in my life, including myself. But I risk a further observation in saying that (hot stories aside) this ‘realness’—this ‘hominess’—this sense of ‘I’m not in this alone’ is one of the reasons you return.

Bits and pieces of what you’re about to read was written into “Fox and Hound” as Grant’s tale. Remember when Sharon met the Ellis’s for the first time? Cathartic writing has its benefits.

Families naturally band together in times of daunting adversity, giving support and loving kindness to those who know us best and forgive us the most. We encircle one another, staying off further calamity. We replenish what the quotidian struggles of life strips from us. We distribute the lumbering weight of life from one onto many until the burden we carry isn't great at all.

My Great-grandmother used to say, “Just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something.”

“Do something” What do you do when nothing can be done to rectify the situation? You come together. There still, honeyed words and friendships have their place, I suppose. But it’s the familiarity, comfort, and caring one finds in the company of their familial unit which buffers the blows and helps us through the rough patches. So what do you do? Just be there. Your presence, though silent, let's them know they're not alone.

Now close your eyes and imagine your last family function—everyone together, kids running around, cousins plotting their way out of washing dishes. Picture their smiling faces, hear their laughter, feel their hugs. Now, family by family erase them. Start with the older ones and work your way down to the babies…erase your spouse, kids, mom, dad, and siblings. Keep going until their voices have faded and no one is left except you. Sit and think...and feel the emptiness.

Now open your eyes.

This is what has happened to a dear friend of ours. He’s the sole survivor in his family. Since his mother, his rock, passed away last month, he has no known relatives on God’s green earth. Not one. His entire family is extinct. His mother’s illness was prolonged so we, his friends, prepared ourselves for what lie ahead. For myself, nothing prepared me for the abject loneliness I felt the moment she drew her last breath.

Dear God, what he must have felt watching everything he knew swirl away from him. I can’t imagine the dank cavernous stretches loneliness our dear friend is navigating. For him, there are no holiday gatherings or graduations. No baby showers or weddings. No birthdays or funerals. There’s nothing. When he passes away, no one with whom he shares DNA will be in attendance.

He flew in late yesterday evening and we had a few people over for dinner. I must say, he put on a very convincing face. All outward signs of physical presence were there, but when I touched him there’s nothing but resolute fear masked by grief. After everyone left and my family went to bed, we finally had a chance to chat.

“I’m tired, Tracy. I’m so tired.” He needn’t say it but he did. He seemed folded into himself, drained by the sheer effort of keeping up appearances for others. You see, when it comes to grief, we often find ourselves at a lost of how to comfort those in its wake. So we give our condolences and hope the person takes mercy on us by confirming their alright or coping. It’s a selfless act on their part but it leaves them trapped between the Scylla of suffused guilt for lying and the Carbides of earnest and true want of understanding. Their lie, while just in its sentiment, leaves them with a sense of alienation—no one really knows them or cared about them enough to stick around for the grizzly bereavement. They are themselves embedded in an emotion imbroglio of fear, loneliness, want of genuine friendship, and grief of their own making.

Rightly, my friend fears the future. Marriage is an option however children aren’t. I didn’t ask him why he’s opposed to children but I’m sure he’s put much thought into the decision and it would be wrong of me to persuade him otherwise.

My beautiful husband, there are many reasons I love him. But his kind heart and compassion for others leaves me speechless. The morning on the funeral was eerily quiet. We all got dressed and went about our business. I went into our bedroom and found Greg sitting at the end of our bed, looking down at his shoes—just sitting there quietly. I know not what he was thinking or feeling, but I remember seeing my father in that exact position minutes before we left to bury his father, my Grandfather in 2005. I didn’t disturb Greg, as I didn't distrub my father.

The funeral was very emotional, as you would imagine. But our friend didn’t weep—he kind of stared on blankly until he was called to say a few words. He stood notes in hand, faced all of us in attendance, and looked at us as if searching for his words. His pain was crippling. He stood for a minute or so unable to speak or sit. I wanted to run up and throw my arms around him. I looked over at Greg. He didn’t look at me—he kind of patted my knees, took his place beside his friend, and pried the note cards from his clinched hands. He read alone.

To everything, there is a season. And a time to every purpose under heavens.
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Greg’s voice was so clear and warm. To those in attendance he must have seemed stalwart. I know my husband; he was dying. But his duty, first and foremost, was to get his friend over the hump—very much like my father had done for us.

So now what?

Well, me for, it’s more important what we don’t do. We don’t slip into a polarized existence, taking for granted the people in our lives will always be there or that our love is self-evident. We come together, we embrace one another for a few extra seconds, we ask how each other is doing and we stick around to hear the reply, but most importantly we love as we have always loved.

I post this unedited. Maybe one day I’ll have the strength to read it again. Right now, I don’t. So forgive any grammatical mistakes or typos—I just don’t have it in me. Please feel free to share your experiences—I guess that’s what we do, our small family--we share.