Grief is the thing with feathers


Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me

Emily Dickinson

Yesterday night, my grandfather passed away. Writing this, from a secluded place in India, helps it sink in a little bit. It is so unreal, even more so as I’m thousand of kilometers apart. But death’s intrusion in the middle of life always is, because it is so alien to anything we know.
I’m overcome by grief, and have been trying to switch flights, change plans, find a way to come back to Geneva for a few days, but as it turns out, there is no internet and it’s impossible to book a flight ticket. I remain, then, and am in this hole in time and space where I don’t know how to grieve alone, amongst people that can’t share it – even if they are the sweetest and keep offering me tea, which, as we all know, is the answer to anything.
It’s not unexpected, it is as good as it could be, he passed away peacefully – one always says that, I’ve said it a number of time in hospitals – but it is true, and he was always so grateful for the life he had and the people he shared it with. In turn, I’m also immensely grateful, for having had the privilege to know him, his love for mountains, his incredible memory (he knew every peak, every valley by name, remembered each student he had had and countless classical verses, from Homer to Virgil), his love for knowledge and teaching, his gentleness.
But to grieve here alone reminds me how crucial our rituals are, to live through death, and how bereft one feels when suddenly there are no rituals. I shall have to make my own, somewhere between India and Nepal as I fly tomorrow. I will be amongst mountains, and that at least is a relief: he would have loved to be thought of in the mountains.


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