Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the kings horses and all the kings men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again
The image of this old children’s rhyme stuck in my mind as I began to think of how broken I felt with the loss of so many loved family members. For years, I kept trying to piece together my crashed spirit. Sometimes, my patchwork repairs were quite awkward. Recent outward manifestations of patching cracked sidewalks, brick patios, and disintegrating stonewalls were indicative of the inner turmoil of a heart and mind struggling to stay intact. I felt like that old egg, Humpty Dumpty. I felt shattered. I felt broken. I felt confused. And, I wasn’t sure how I could get patched. Or, for that matter, who would do the patching.
The image of Humpty falling, as well as splattering, made me believe that it just wasn’t possible to mend the poor thing. And, if it was possible, Humpty certainly must have been a changed egg after that kind of fall. Imagine all the visible cracks where a once smooth surface was now seamed together! Imagine the disfigurement and improper clothing attire that needed adjustment! Or, imagine the disruption of the inner part of Humpty as he oozed onto the ground, spreading like drippings from a honeycomb! I wonder how the king’s men scraped that back into a cracked shell. My guess is they couldn’t get it all together again, so they gave up. Humpty was broken and that was that.
Like Humpty Dumpty, I was broken. In my grieving hours, I thought I was doing a great job of patching my broken spirit after repeated death messages tossed me to the ground. I had a tough outer shell, had been through a lot already and wasn’t about to crack under deaths grip. My mantra of “I can be put back together” kept me persevering in spite of outward forces. My mantra gave me unbelievable strength. And, my mantra kept others away from my scrambled insides as I reflected a powerful, independent, “can do attitude.” “Let my guard down, not me” I thought. “I will not crack, I will not crack.” Or, so, I thought.
The first sign I experienced of cracking came when I cut down a majority of trees in my backyard, thinking, “ They’ll grow back by the end of summer.” Confronting wild dear as I chased them down the street because they ate my newly planted flowers wasn’t so sane, either. Then, I decided to mow around the beautiful yellow and purple patches of flowers that were just weeds in my front and back yards. The neighbors had wonderful green lawns, while mine had a bit of color. I thought the imperfection was quite attractive and unusual. Weeds are pretty, too! Maybe, I thought that was like Humpty’s new look where he had been seamed together. Then, I knew I was unsettled when I decided to pull apart my 3,000 brick patio in order to remove the weeds that had grown between the bricks. Any sane person would have thrown down weed killer.
No, a grieving individual wouldn’t do such a sane thing. As I pulled and yanked each brick, while spraying weed killer, too, I thought about what a great meditation the process was for my mind. Years of debris had collected and grown into weeds. Those weeds represented the accumulated pain I had been unable to release as I held in my grief. Weed by weed, thought by thought, each brick was a symbol of restoration from the impact that others’ deaths had upon me. Of course, the new spaces between the bricks were ripe ground for the unusual harvest of spinners that began to fall from my maple trees. But, I could take care of those immediately before they took root and left me with new saplings. Grief is like that in a way. The feelings surface occasionally and I need to deal with them before they take root and I have to struggle once more.
I struggled putting the bricks together at times because the form of the patio had changed. Some bricks just didn’t fit properly. The tapestry I once knew was flat and now curves and bumps caused by an underground root system seemed to give the patio a different type of character. Looking at that patio caused me to reflect upon how grief can affect the character of an individual, too. I am changed by the grief that I experienced. My spirit was broken and needed repair. I was shattered at times and needed to be put together again. But, there were no kings men to help, so, I worked at my grief recovery alone, a bit at a time. Like Humpty Dumpty, I also had a great fall. The difference is:
I’m not an egg, yet I’m just as fragile. And, I can help put myself back together again.
So, I read, I write, I cut trees, or, I find something that will help me feel better as time takes care of what only time can do. I’m glad I had the rhyme of Humpty Dumpty to help me express how I feel. Sometimes, my outside doesn’t match my inside as I continue to piece together my life that was shattered by grief. Piecing together the human mind and heart takes a lot more glue than other inanimate objects. I do believe though, I’m a stronger individual than before my fall. There still may be a small piece missing here and there, but those missing pieces have become a reminder of those family and friends now gone. And their life stories are just as impressive to me as the nursery rhymes of my childhood.
About the Author------
Mary J.Nowyj has a degree from Syracuse University, MA in Communication Skills. She taught at Onondaga Community College. Mary is the previous Historian for the town of Onondaga, where she has resided for forty-two years.
She enjoys exploring/traveling, theater, and writing. She is also a volunteer at Hope For Bereaved Center in Syracuse, New York.