Jill Bolte Taylor’s Guide for Grief

I was thinking it would be nice if they sold candles scented like motor oil.

It was just after Thanksgiving that we got the diagnosis that my dad was dying of a very rare and incurable cancer. He died on Christmas day.  And in every Christmas season since I have lit a white candle in his memory.  These candles, more often than not, are scented of vanilla or gardenia or white cotton. If I truly wanted to be reminded of my father, the candle would smell of motor oil.

My father owned an auto service and towing outfit and as such simply could not drive by when someone was stranded roadside. Though he wasn’t a saint, like a river that smooths a stone’s rough edges, time has smoothed the rough edges of my memories and I’m left with  joyful rememberances.  

Of precarious, crazy Jeep rides all over the sand dunes of southern California.

Of his preference to Christmas shop on Christmas Eve at a car wash for his children. “Yes, but it’s an electronic tire gauge!” he would say.

Of  a laugh that that you could hear coming like a freight train and was as contagious as a yawn.

In the seven years since he died, many a man about his age when he died – 67- has turned to look at me after undoubtedly feeling the heat of my stare.  They have caught me gazing  lovingly and longingly and sending them silent blessings because something about their lined faces or posture or mechanic shop smell reminded me of my dad.

I am reminded now of a recent interview I did with Jill Bolte Taylor. The neuroanatomist suffered a severe hemorrhage in 1996, effectively losing the use of her left brain at the age of 37. Besides being unable to walk, talk, or even sit up she found herself awakened to a state of bliss.  She spoke passionately about this at the Ted Conference. We talked about how she maintains her blissed out state-of-mind  even though she’s made a full, physical recovery.

It’s a two-step process.

First, accept what you’re feeling. “Fear or anger or despair or grief — all the really gripping emotions that most people define as negitive,” Taylor said.  Accept it, experience it and the feelings will pass through.

Second, Taylor said, find the gratitude in the feeling. Even in the inside-twisting experience of grief.

“Even the experience of deep grief,” Taylor said. “It’s an incredible, rich experience when you allow it to take you and you go there. Close your eyes. Let yourself be with it. Then have the gratitude to know that I’m capable of having that experience because I’m alive! I’m alive!”

So as this season’s white candle burns down, the flickering flame has reminded me of the joy I have experienced with my father and that I’m still here. Loving. Living. Grieving.

And accepting this year’s white candle scent of white orchid tea.

One Response to “Jill Bolte Taylor’s Guide for Grief”

  1. 1

    Whoa, what a story. This is the first blog of yours I have read, and I mean… what a great way to start. You have a certain way with words that I love, and it makes you content easy to read.

    First off, let me say how sorry I am for your loss. That HAS to be tough, and for the rest of your life you will always remember him on Christmas day. As bad as that sounds, that might be a bittersweet thing. I can’t say, as I have never lost a parent… but as you said, with time it will get better.

    I am really excited to start reading your blogs. Thanks for sharing this personal story with everyone.