Collin got a coupla weeks off, so we packed up the car, loaded the dog, and set out for the 9-hour drive to McCarthy and Kennicott at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. We'd been there many times by air, ushering in a group of pilots for a two-night stay at the comfy Glacier Lodge. This time, we camped, in the rough and historic town of McCarthy, home to rushing rivers, visiting ice climbers from around the world, a great museum, and some hearty Alaskans that tough it out in this town to make it all happen.
Among other folks we encountered was the beer delivery guy named Pooky, a shuttle driver named Cosmo, and a horse named Curly Sue. All great fun, luckily no bear scares, and the Root and Kennicott glaciers are as spectacular as ever.
The experts refer to this thing called “complicated grief” whenever one’s loss has some particularly difficult angle to it: multiple deaths in a short time, the death of a child, suicide, when the relationship was “unsanctioned” by society, death by violent crime, estrangement with the deceased, just to name a few.
At Latitude 65, we are privy to a special sort of complication: long, cold winters. This means that burial services cannot take place for roughly 6 months out of every year, which generates a prolonged bereavement experience, made harder by the notion that your loved one is spending pricey weeks in “storage.” (That is the actual line item on the funeral home invoice.)
I attended a funeral service for a dear, old Mexican woman who died back in March. This sweet and complex woman performed a couple of miracles in my mind: 1) found it in herself to move from her beloved and balmy Durango, Mexico to frigid and faraway Fairbanks, Alaska, and 2) lived to be 99 years old, dying in her own bed in the home she and her husband built 50 years ago.
Yet it was just today, June 9th, that she was put to rest in Fairbanks’ Birch Hill cemetery, alongside her husband who preceded her in death by some twenty years though at a similarly ripe age of 97.
This time of year is what one irreverent chaplain refers to as “planting season.” (Just one of the minuscule but numerous reasons I left hospice, but that’s another blog post entirely!)
Delayed burials in northern latitudes don’t make it into the handbooks that discuss the complications of grief, though it should. Makes one ponder just what other factors—specific to geography, socioeconomics, etc.—aren’t making it to the handbook either.
I’m starting to wonder if all grief is, in fact, complicated.