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So Much Grief

By Orlando Bishop | Think Pieces | June 5, 2020 |

By Orlando Bishop | Think Pieces | June 5, 2020 |


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Grief.

So much grief.

I love boxing. I love to watch. I love to train. I love to spar.

I also love to watch documentaries about great fights and fighters. Among my favorites is a doc about the soul stirring, blood spilling, crowd thrilling trilogy of fights between Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti.

There’s a bittersweetness as the story of the fights and the friendship between the fighters is told. Arturo Gatti is no longer with us. And it’s hard to watch as people grapple with that reality, even as they share their memories of a beautiful chapter in boxing history.

Grief.

So much grief.

We may joke about it, but 2020 … I don’t know that I have ever expressed my condolences so many times to so many people in so little time. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, childhood friends, beloved celebrities …

I remember so clearly when our national coronavirus death tally reached 1,000 and we all acknowledged the “grim milestone.” Last I checked, we’re doing that daily now.

Grief.

So much grief.

And while we face the mind-bending numbers of a global pandemic and national crisis we’ve descended into even greater chaos and despair, gripped by the horrific murder of George Floyd. And our response…? More destruction. More death. And more…

Grief.

So much grief.

Personally, 2020 has been a nightmare. It’s astounding to consider how recently things were normal. (Remember normal?) I was driving my kids to school. And I was coaching my (non-biological) kids through the first steps of our high school basketball program. And I was working on a pretty big writing project that was going pretty well. And my big cousin, Fermin… he was still a What’sApp message away. Then… on January 30th… I got a text… and he wasn’t.

Grief.

So much grief.

Micky Ward tells the story of Arturo hitting him with a shot that knocked Micky down and silly. He describes fighting on, though he was completely out of it.

I rewatched the doc recently and smiled, knowing, metaphorically at least, exactly what he was describing. You’re on your feet and doing the things everyone around you expects you to do, but you know, more than you dare let on, that you are out on your feet and don’t even fully know where you are.

I’m sure I looked like Orlando, standing in front of his laptop, writing, fighting. But I didn’t know where I was. And I couldn’t make sense of the words. I couldn’t read pages I’d written and the words just sort of sat there, refusing to be full sentences, much less coherent ideas. A week passed… then a month… then two… And it hit me that the last time I finished anything related to the project was February 3rd… And given I’d gotten the news about Fermin on January 30th… Well, that didn’t seem like a coincidence.

Grief.

So much grief.

I see your posts. I read your comments. My friends, I feel your grief.

And I’m so sorry.

Whether you grieve a young woman who inexplicably chose to go too soon or a father who lived a long beautiful life only to depart during these horrific times or a man snatched from his family and community by a societal scourge that has gone on too long or over 100,000 Americans deaths due to the coronavirus or over 370,000 deaths worldwide from the same or our democracy, itself…

I’m so sorry.

Grief.

So much grief.

Micky goes on to tell the story of the rest of the round. You see, Arturo blasted him with another right hand and — BOOM! — somehow, “He woke me up.” Arturo knocked the sense out of him, then right back into him in the same round.

Over the weekend, I took a moment. I woke up early. I made a cup of coffee. And I looked out my window at my quiet slice of a city I knew had been burning just a few hours earlier. And I just took a moment. And it hit me that my grief was physically in my way. In all that stillness, it was there, at my solar plexus. I took my first truly deep breath in months and felt a sensation through my chest and belly I can only compare to the relief of unclenching your jaw.

And I went and got my laptop. And I opened the document. And for the first time in what felt like forever, I could read it. The words formed sentences and the sentences formed ideas, ideas I could follow. I knew I wasn’t “okay,” but I was a lot more “okay” than I’d been only a day before.

Grief.

So much grief.

Last night, I planted my feet and prepared to fight. I stayed up to the wee hours, transcribing conversations and connecting dots. Then, like a flash — BOOM! — it hit me. I’d been working on the project when I got the news about Fermin, my big cousin. Every time I went to pick up where I left off, every time confusion inexplicably replaced comprehension and creativity…

Grief.

So much grief.

But this morning, I can write again.

This morning… I’m not okay, but I can write again.

And this morning… the first thing I wanted to write was a message to all of you in mourning, wherever and why ever you mourn, to let you know that it’s okay. It’s okay when you get knocked down, when life lands big shots, that you’re not okay, that you stumble and blink and shake your head to regain your senses, even when none of that seems to work. It’s okay to be in mourning. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay that you can’t “write,” whatever that looks like in your life.

Sometimes, you just have to commit to returning to your laptop, stubborn words be damned. Sometimes, surviving the round is a win when you are facing…

Grief.

So much grief.

And I don’t know who needed to hear this today, who missed a graduation or a prom, who just needs a hug, who lost a spouse or a child or a parent or a friend, who lost the innocence of viewing this country in one way or patience with a lifetime of seeing it a different way entirely… But as soon as I could write again, I knew I needed to write this to you:

Fight on!

Even when there is…

Grief.

So much grief.

Fight on!

Orlando Bishop has called Los Angeles home since 1997. These days, he mostly draws on his youth in Flatbush, Brooklyn, his journey to and through “Hollywood,” and life with his wife of 22 years and their 15-year-old twins to tell stories that get audiences unstuck, giving them something to think about or just a much-needed laugh. You can follow him on Twitter.

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