Orphans with black armbands to mourn their mother F.M. Brown 1865
I wish I had a black arm band, a sign to say I am in mourning.
I went online but can’t find any at Amazon.
Except police. They can get cheap bands online and so can teams who lose a member.
I discovered that “Black Arm Band” is a group of Australia’s premier indigenous musicians.
When I visited the Aboriginal embassy outside the parliament of Australia’s capital, Canberra, a 40-year-old occupy” movement, I saw people who know grief.
My friend Martin, a doctor, once attended an Aboriginal “Sorry Camp.” He joined a patient’s family in the desert outside of town the night of her death. Under the dark sky people wept and wept, held in each other’s laps saying, “Sorry. Sorry.” There was food and bodies that rhythmically bumped shoulder to shoulder. This was what their grieving body wanted.
My body needs to recognize the profound loss of a loved one. Mostly, I am doing this alone, yet glad that I don’t live in 18th century England.
“By the 19th century, mourning behaviour in England had developed into a complex set of rules, particularly among the upper classes. Women bore the greatest burden of these customs. They involved wearing heavy, concealing, black clothing, and the use of heavy veils of black crêpe…”widow’s weeds” (from the Old English “Waed” meaning “garment”).
… There was special mourning jewelry, often made of jet and with the hair of the deceased in a locket or brooch…Widows were expected to wear special clothes to indicate that they were in mourning for up to four years after the death, although a widow could choose to wear such attire for the rest of her life. … In general, servants wore black armbands when there had been a death in the household.
One blogger says “The fashion for heavy mourning was drastically reduced after the Great War. So many individuals died that just about everyone was in mourning for someone. By 1918 a whole new attitude had developed and this was hastened even further by the Second World War.”
The world had so much mourning that people couldn’t handle that much black? My husband, a hospice chaplain, said, “Maybe if all the women had worn black there wouldn’t have been a second world war.”
Death, the great teacher, is invisible on our streets, in our cafe’s and schools. So, I am considering a black arm band thanks to my good friend and muse Sharon Pavelda, a death midwife and persona known as Mortina DeKay, the merry mortician who asks, “What if the reaper isn’t grim?” She agrees that we need a sign that death has us by the sleeve.
If I find a black arm band I might just wear it until it falls off. How do you move in the world when death leads?