Coffee with Grief

Leah Cunningham
Aug 11, 2018 · 3 min read

Grief is an absolute nightmare of a houseguest. Its belongings are strewn about, just out of sight so as to trip you up when you least expect it. I just wanted to grab a mug for a cup of coffee so I reach into the cupboard and grab that mug. I remember. It’s the mug from Red Wing Pottery that I bought with her during our annual autumn drive along Highway 61. I remember. All those drives along the Mississippi River from Hastings to Lake Pepin. I remember. Our turnaround point was Pepin Heights Orchard where we would gobble up freshly made caramel apples. I remember. It’s my favorite mug because it helps me remember her, my beautiful pain in the ass mom. I just wanted my cup of coffee in my favorite mug, and now I’m crying because I just want my mom.

It was a beautiful mid-September morning in 2013 when my sister called to tell me that if the new treatment does not work then prognosis is roughly 4 months. Is it a blessing or a curse to know your days are numbered? Everyone knows that we will not live forever, that all living creatures die. Some of us might live long enough to appreciate the experience of our cells breaking down slowly while our bits and pieces gently deteriorate. Others might not even know what hit them. Then there are those who are told such things as “if the new treatment does not work, then you have 4 months to live”. That’s the somber, heart wrenching beauty of nature.

The thing about getting older and opening your heart to people is that you are forced to open your home to Grief, that shitty houseguest. I would like to think that with all my practice I’ve gotten really good at saying goodbye. The truth is that saying goodbye stings just has much the first time as it does the tenth time, the twentieth time, and so on. If anything it stings more because Grief does not move in a linear fashion, it’s exponential in that it brings memories. It forces empathy.

Earlier this week I learned that my friend and mentor, David Hussman, is realizing a new chapter in his journey with lung cancer. The monster metastasized into his liver. I remember when the cancer metastasized into my brother-in-laws liver and what it did to him. My heart is breaking for his wife and daughters.

David is a force of nature. His tenacity and drive helped bring agility to the Twin Cities tech community. He gave me a chance to tell my story and to believe in myself more. David expanded my network through his innate talent in building community. He challenged me to be better, to do better.

David and I paired together on bringing the first Chaos Community Day to the Twin Cities last November. It was through this experience that I came to truly understand his love of community and making the world a better place. I would be lying if I told you that David never once pissed me off — he did, especially earlier in my career when I was insecure. I now see things differently. People who help you to be a better person will often piss you off because they want you to see what they see in you. They want you to be better, to do better. I am forever grateful for the friendship, coaching, and mentorship he’s given me over the past decade.

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