What I know of pain:

The way my mother, not yet thirty, watched the nurse and doctor hold me down, fighting, to give me a shot. The way my friend lives without her son because he chose his father. The way another friend broke up with the man she loves because doing so hurt less than enduring a moment longer the circumstances that were keeping them apart.

What I know of loss:

The way my brother’s lung collapsed, and the doctors had to cut off a piece of it in order to mend the tear. The way my parents let me, helped me move to Boston, to Portland, three thousand, one thousand miles away. The way a friend felt everything a bit more tenderly the year she bore her parents’ long-awaited divorce.

What I know of grief:

The way everyone who’s lost someone marks the anniversary of their death, their departure more viscerally than the anniversary of their birth, the day they met. The way we all say we’ve moved on long before we really have. The way it lines the faces of those it sinks its teeth into and never, not really, ever goes away.

What I know of hope:

The way my friends tend to hum the same tune when I’m going through a crisis. The way I watch them punch and shout themselves out of their own swampy situations. The way, as can only happen when the blues are sung together, we wrap our arms around each other and say it’ll be okay, even if none of us has any idea what that means.

What I know of faith:

The way the pollen returns each spring to coat my car and start my allergies. The way every bruise and cut and scrape heals eventually, even if it leaves a scar. The way, if I pay attention, when I don’t know what to look for, something crawls into my line of vision that is beautiful or comical or ordinary and gives me the chance to choose to see it.

What I know of courage:

The way some decide to move away, and others decide to stay. The way some do what they don’t love to support who they love, and others do what they do love and hope who they love will support them nonetheless. The way my grandma, when I last saw her, two weeks before her death, said, “We have to keep believing,” and I didn’t know in what. And I don’t know now, but I’m starting to think it’s not about the “what,” or the “I,” or the “know,” but the sum of all its parts.