Holiday Oysters and Grief Rituals

We're packing up to spend a few days in Palm Springs with my mom, step-dad, and uncle. And while Teddy is at pre-school and Isaac at daycare (He started a few weeks ago, three times a week. More on that later maybe.), I wanted to pack up a few things I didn't want the kids to get into. I started with the stuff I'm going to need for the grief ritual I'm planning on leading.

If you follow this blog with any regularity, talking about grief rituals is clearly where I was headed, right? If you follow this blog, or read my book, you may also remember that I lost my grandma and my dad within weeks of each other in November of 2013. This November, we lost my Aunt Martha. At first I was planning the grief ritual solely for Martha, since I couldn't make it to her memorial service. But then I realized that I wasn't able to make it to my grandma's memorial service either. My dad's death kind of lives in my mind with my grandma's, so naturally he got pulled into it too.

I've never participated in a non-funeral grief ritual before let alone led one. I'm a WASP from a long line of WASPs. We don't excel at talking about our feelings. We don't excel at showing our feelings. We are stoic strivers! So, obviously, I am following the guidelines of a grief ritual as explained to me by Francis Weller in his book, say it with me now: The Wild Edge of Sorrow.

I think part of the reason I'm telling you all of this is to keep me to my word. I'm afraid to lead a grief ritual! I'm afraid to be vulnerable in front of my family!

The ritual itself is very simple. It involves a shrine, a bowl of water, and some stones. Weller uses the word "shrine" in passing, therefore, leaving it open to interpretation. I've decided some photos will work. I went through my wedding album and pulled ones of my grandma, my dad, and Martha. I'm also bringing David Whyte's book of poetry, Everything is Waiting for You, in case I want to read a poem. I’m going to play it by ear. In short: Look out, Palm Springs. Here we come!

I think the other reason I'm telling you all of this is because I want to remind myself to: Arrive curious, without the armor / of certainty. Those lines are from a poem by Rebecca del Rio called "Prescription for the Disillusioned." Ever since the election (and, sure, since well before then), I think I've been afraid to let go of my anger. If I let go of my anger, how will people (read: my mom) know that I'm not accepting the things I don’t accept, like the misogyny and hate that the results of this election represent to me? But then, as I was packing these things up, I came across these lines from T.W.E.O.S.: "Letting go is not a passive state of acceptance but a recognition of the brevity of all things. This realization invites us to love fully now, in this moment, when what we love is here." This is one of those things that is easier said than done. But I will try. (I will also forgive myself if I fail!)

And now it's time to go pick up Isaac from daycare.

All our love and grief and everything in between,
Amelia, Matt, Isaac, and Teddy

p.s. Happy holidays! Here's a video of me and Teddy making oysters.

p.p.s. Here are a couple of links to combat hopelessness!
1. "It's Easier Than We Think: Ralph Nader on How We Can Change Society"
2. This song, on repeat, really loud, while dancing: "Rough Going (I Won't Let Up)
3. This song, preferably while driving, maybe on a highway.

Holiday Oysters (with a Lemon-Parsley-Shallot Butter)
serves 2-4, depending on how much you love oysters

18 oysters
kosher salt or rock salt
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup well-chopped parsley
1 shallot, minced
1 lemon, both the zest and juice
pinch of salt

Get a large, broiler-safe (not glass or ceramic!) pan and fill the bottom with a layer of the kosher salt or rock salt. (If you don’t have a big enough pan to fit all 18 oysters, you can do them in batches, which is what I did.)

Mix together the butter, parsley, shallot, lemon zest, and pinch of salt. Set aside.

Shuck the oysters, removing the top shell and leaving them in their bottom shell along with their liquor and then place them in the pan atop the salt, one by one, as you go.

Preheat the broiler.

Place a nice dab (about a half teaspoon or a bit more) of the butter mixture on top of each oyster. Broil about 3-4 minutes. Serve on the half shell with lemon wedges.


cindyseecindydo said...

Wow I'm super impressed Teddy didn't spit out the oyster! He must have a refined palate for a toddler ;)

Amelia Morris said...

@cindy nahhhh I think we just caught him at the right moment. :)

tannaz sassooni said...

wait, matt was not the first comment? these really are new times. (and sending you hugs as you feel all the feelings, and do so out loud, publicly, in the company of your family. no small feat.)

cindyseecindydo said...

@tannaz omg I didn't even notice I beat Matt!! haha!

Kara said...

Ah dear friend, what a shimmering post about love and family and openness and sorrow (which is just a tender companion to beauty, no?). Thank you for your vulnerability and your willingness to grow. It is healing to all of us, acknowledged or no. Also: Martha is beautiful ❤️

CityGirl said...

Happy holidays to you too! I love love love your videos!!

Petrone said...

You're going to do great. No matter what, the beauty is in the attempt.

(As for the election and your mama, I hear you. Maybe try a grief ritual regarding the election, on your own, before you go? Maybe processing and peace isn't really becoming complacent but getting yourself ready for the next stage... which is fighting and action.)

Matthew said...

Late to the game, but I made it to Palm Springs and am ready to jump in the grief ritual!

Katherine {eggton} said...

My favorite poem about loss is The Gate, by Marie Howe: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/50979

xo Kat

Kristen Iskandrian said...

Love all of this so much.

Unknown said...

Condolences on your losses. You're brave to express yourself here and with your family.

On a lighter note, did Teddy really eat an oyster?!? I'm super impressed.

Alison said...

You're so lucky to have such cool co-workers! 😉 Happy holidays, and I hope that your grief ritual brings you catharsis and satisfying reflection.

Amelia Morris said...

@Mary Walsh Thank you! And yes, Teddy really ate an oyster! I mean, I love them raw, so maybe he was just picking up on my excitement? That said, he didn't ask for another one. :)

Unknown said...

Thank you for this, Amelia. We lost my husband's grandmother this morning, on the heels of both my sisters being involved in a very bad car accident yesterday. They walked away from it, but I'm almost experiencing grief about "the-awfulness-of-what-could-have-been", in addition to this death in the family. We probably won't be able to attend the memorial, so your idea is very comforting/inspiring to me. (I'm sure a ritual will also help me the process post-election rage that just keeps cycling over and over...). Much love to you all as you navigate your losses.

Jules said...

Afraid to be vulnerable in front of my family! That nails it on the head for me and I never really realized it till this past Saturday when my step-father got remarried after my mom passed away 3 years ago. I wasn't going to go. I couldn't articulate why I didn't want to go, just didn't want to go. My guilt got the better of me and I went, keeping my eyes upward and my thoughts distracted while the ceremony proceeded in front of me. It was hard. Like, way harder than i expected it to be. And i'll be damned if someone didn't come up to me right after and gently held my face in their hands and told me how much I looked like my mom. Well cue the ugly cry. I was so tense and pissed that I was crying in front of friends, and family, and strangers. My stepbrother calmly patted me and said it was ok to cry and I literally said the words, " I don't like being this in front of anyone". Its such a vulnerable feeling.

I love your writing, and the videos with the boys and just a real gem!

Amelia Morris said...

@Jules Gahh so hard. For some reason--probably because you have a mom who has died and stepfather who is moving on--Cheryl Strayed's Wild comes to mind. Have you read? It's one of those books I'm so glad became a mega bestseller because it's so so so so good. xoxx