It all happened so fast.
We gather in a Google Meet right after class, first Amanda and me, then Tobi, then Paula. Amanda looks distraught and she tells me that she may need to leave our meeting to address the current urgency of her father-in-law’s health. She holds back a flood tears, letting only a few escape before the others arrive, then rubbing her eyes as she does when she thinks. But this motion is slower, and more sweeping, as if the intent is not to understand, but to ignore what is known. Grief knocks at both our doors, but we continue to teach and to gather in community; one picks up when anther falls.
That was Friday. This is Saturday.
A text arrives to our group chat: His dad died last night. It was quick and what he wanted.
We text our condolences. We are all somewhat numb to our collective suffering and I wonder if it is getting easier because it is becoming routine. This is what we know.
There are small moments of suffering and larger ones too, merging and overlapping into places of connection and community. Tobi and I decide to send Amanda and her family a meal. Tobi slyly finds out where Amanda likes to eat nearby and I make the call to Ceylonta, a Sri Lankan restaurant in Ottawa. I speak with Raj and he knows the family well. We plan together what to send to sustain them, and I plan to pick it up before 5pm on Sunday.
Forcing open the heavy and nearly immobile front door of the downtown restaurant, I am greeted by scents of coconut and Jasmine and spices that I cannot identify. This place has a history, and appears to be well established. A round brown-faced smiling man greets me and the bags of warm food are waiting on the counter near the front cash. He tells me that he is donating $80 of food for this “incredible family”, these “good people”, and he shares a story of a $100 tip they left. He bows to me, hands in prayer, in front – namaste. He then tells me that there is freshly made tapioca for me and Tobi – two servings, no charge.
I leave with six large warm parcels of nourishment and comfort, food prepared for ones who are suffering the loss of a life. Grief and gratitude mingle and the ripple of community continues.