At long last I can say yes, you have a place in my heart. You have stalked me, pulling at my twelve-year-old self, crawling under my blanket the night my father died, asking to be held, to be rocked, to be named, but I pushed you out of bed, pulled the covers up over my head, hummed to myself, sucked on the satin ribbon sewn carefully around the border of my quilt. Grief was what I heard downstairs, the air shattering sound of my mother wailing. The world slowed and stopped spinning.
How could I welcome you in when there were no molecules left to breathe? How could I name you when I had forgotten what to call myself?
I was a lost child and would not let you bring me home, but you followed, always in my shadow. Years flung down a chute with no echo, men whose names I forgot as soon as I rose from their beds. You were the stone in my heart, the false note in my laughter, the pebble in my shoe. You were as close as my breath, the rhythm and scent of my days, the minor chord struck in the night.
I did not understand what you wanted. I was ashamed of you. I wanted to cast you out, disown you, deny you, but you never left. How could you. You were loyal to your task, dark though it seemed, to sit me down and hold me while I wept, to unburden my heart of sorrows too ancient to name, to soothe and comfort me.
Dear grief, forgive me. I did not understand. You were the mother I never had, the peace I had been searching for all those long, lonely years.