Facing loss can be overwhelming. Recently, I lost one of the women who shaped me into who I am. As my cousin’s eulogy aptly described, my grandmother was a modern woman before anyone knew what a modern woman was.
My current research for a upcoming book has led me down a path exploring the power of the crone and the power of the stories surrounding this archetype. One of my sources was the famous Clarissa Pinkola Estes. In her CD series titled The Power of The Crone, she uses beautiful oral storytelling to explore the crone figure, both in myth and in everyday life. She discusses the freedom and strength an elder woman holds. How the chains of social restrictions and traditions no longer bind elder women so tightly.
In their wisdom and experience, elder women are able to express themselves and speak their mind with much less fear. We tend to grow up worried about what others think of us for decades. The crone no longer has this worry. She can dress in pink leotards, sing loudly in public, and follow her whims.
My grandmother held this power at a young age. Perhaps it was the struggles she faced growing up: war, the great depression, a difficult home life, leaving home around 16, raising a family as a single mother for a while. Or maybe it was just grandmother’s spirit.
She had the travel bug. She loved travelling by train and lived all over Canada. She traveled most of Canada, some of the US, Ireland, and Britain.
She worked hard, partied hard, and loved deeply. I had the pleasure of taking her out to dinner once a month for the last five years or so of her life. Her eyes sparkled as she regailed my husband and I of her adventures. Even in her late eighties and early nineties, she could outlast my husband and I, celebrating well into the night.
She always spoke her mind. She was truly ineffable. And I had the privilege to be shaped by this woman and her stories.
I have also had the privilege to be shaped by the stories of amazing aunties who took me on peaceful protests, taught me how to be comfortable in my own skin, and modeled true strength. Stories from other grandmas about perseverance, care, and determination. Stories from uncles about being true to yourself, dedication, and learning from your mistakes. Stories from grandfathers about building something out of nothing, about indulging the trickster inside, and about gumption. Stories from children about the limitlessness and about the wonder of life.
Our lives are stories. Anytime we connect with another person or have an experience, our stories grow and evolve.
Loss is profound, it profoundly shapes us as its own story plays out. But it also has the power to bring out stories. Stories that celebrate the lives that shape us. Stories of grandma on the back of my uncle’s motorcycle. Stories of my great grandfather’s love and acceptance. Stories of my great uncle’s love of music and kindness. Loss brings up stories we long forgot, stories about our heritage, and stories gifted to us by others.
As a writer, I have the privilege of playing with and creating story. It can be a daunting task fraught with challenges and filled with awe. I am so grateful for the stories that have shaped me, and for the stories that I get to shape.