Category: Loss

On Sorrow

So, I have already informed most of ya’ll that I was a pretty morbid, or even “emo” kid. Among the treasury of poems I memorized, in addition to “Too Late” which I already discussed in my post, A Grieving Love, was the following poem by Robert Browning Hamilton:

“I walked a mile with Pleasure;

She chatted all the way;

But left me none the wiser

For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.”

My young life felt full of sorrow, to be fair, and I felt my hardships made me wiser than my more joyful, carefree classmates. I read at an advanced level (although my fear of tests made me score poorly), I hated the nonsense most kids talked about, and I felt like I never fit in. So this poem spoke to me for many, many years. I often felt that joy was cheap and meaningless. That in order for something to actually carry substance, it had to be touched by grief, touched by sorrow. 
Recently, I have really been re-evaluating my worldview, something I will probably always do, and I’ve really been re-examining this poem. I believe grief has helped forge me into the sympathetic, forgiving, if flawed person I am today. I will always be grateful for that. There will be times I walk with sorrow later on, grief that will come and will show me how much more I have to learn from Her, but should I live walking constantly in Her shadow? Should I feel every person’s heartbreak, see the sadness in every person’s step, and live my life engulfed in a protective blanket of sorrow? Probably not. Have I lived like that for some time? No, but this thought has niggled at my mind whenever I feel myself laughing too loudly or reveling in just how blessed I am.
So, with those thoughts in mind, I wrote the following poem:
   This photo is copyrighted by Cole Thompson. Permission to use the photo was granted by the artist – please visit Cole Thompson Photography and Cole Thompson Photography Blog to learn and see more of his creative work.  
  
We all carry burdens, but joy is so precious when it is here – what is the harm in allowing it in? There’s nothing to fear from laughing with abandon, and there is no sense in worrying that you may seem foolish. What is a fool, anyway?
May happiness follow you all everywhere, on whatever journey you take.
-The Rambler

A Grieving Love

So, I was a pretty morbid kid. By all rights, I’m a pretty morbid adult.  As a kid in 4th grade, my first novel was a horror/fantasy novel by Dean Koontz, called Twilight Eyes.  By the time I completed 5th grade, I had read almost everything Dean Koontz and Stephen King had published (except “It” – as a ten-year-old girl reading about the rape of a 10-year-old girl… I had to wait more than a decade before I was able to pick that book up again). As an adult, I enjoy writing horror and graphic violence doesn’t bother me.

I have been spending a lot of time recently thinking about the person I want to be for Amara. It’s been a constant journey, one that started as soon as Nick and I decided we wanted to have a child. Now that she’s here and becoming a little person so fast, it’s all the more real. I need to start modeling better behaviors for her, so she can see me trying to be the best person I can be.

The other day, feeling completely at peace and zen-like (possibly because Amara was still asleep and I had a full night’s sleep and coffee), I stepped out of the shower, and suddenly remembered a poem I memorized as a kid with my older sister:

Too Late
by Nora Perry

What silences we keep, year after year
With those who are most near to us, and dear!
We live beside each other day by day,
And speak of myriad things, but seldom say
The full, sweet word that lies within our reach
Beneath the common ground of common speech.

Then out of sight and out of reach they go —
Those close, familiar ones who loved us so;
And, sitting in the shadow they have left,
Alone with loneliness, and sore bereft,
We think with vain regret of some fond word
That once we might have said and they have heard.

This is the cruel cross of life — to be
Full visioned only when the ministry
Of death has been fulfilled, and in the place
Of some dear presence is but empty space.
What recollected services can then
Give consolation for the “might have been”? 

For some reason, stepping out of the shower with the entire poem ringing in my head with such clarity after more than two decades, I realized how much this poem shaped me to be the person I am.  It is a large part of why I feel compelled to be grateful. Yes, I memorized ‘Too Late’ after I watched my godfather (one of the best men I ever knew) fight a losing battle to cystic fibrosis and how that affected my godmother, the amazing and kind lady I still call aunt. It’s impossible as a kid not to see the power grief has over your loved ones. The grief etched in their eyes, the lines on their face, that hollow ache in their voice… It makes you very aware of the fact that you can lose people you love. I have already written pretty extensively on my fear of loss (see my post Letting Go), so I won’t go into that more here.

For those of you who know me, you’ll probably notice I apologize a lot and say “thank you” a lot. For those of you who’ve known me a while, then, you’ve probably heard me say “I love you”, because, heck, I do. If you’ve tolerated me for more than a few years, then by, gosh, you can bet I think of you fondly.

But my epiphany left me with a whole new view of myself and the narrow way I view love. By allowing loss be my impetus to express love, I have created a world in which loss is the very center of my world.  How much more morbid can you get? While loss and sorrow may have shaped the person I have become, a person I am happy to be, I am no longer that sorrowful Raven, feeling “alone with my loneliness”.  I have friends and family, and I daresay they know I love them.  And yes, it is important to me that the people in my life know that I love them.

I am thankful for all the tools that shaped me to be the kind, compassionate, and loving (if very flawed) person I believe I am (ok, endeavor to be) today.

But a love based on loss is a grieving love.  It predicts the end – it knows and fears what will come (not what may come). If loss is your center, the end will always be inevitable. It knows all joy is fleeting, and is waiting for the final hammer to fall. All relationships are tumultuous. But I want more than to be waiting for the end. I want the joy I have in each friendship, each moment, I want that to be my center. I want to express love simply so each person knows that they are loved, not because I fear that I may never have a chance to express that love again, in the worst of worst worlds.

My daughter, my husband, my siblings, my daughter’s godparents, my in-laws, my friends – they all have my love, and I find joy and peace in that now. There is no sadness or worry anymore.

Just joy. So, thank you, Nora, for giving me focus, but I won’t be needing you anymore. I won’t be afraid of the might-have-beens anymore, because I am living in the here and now. From here on, I will do my best to just be.

-The Rambler

Three years and some change

It’s funny, the things you can find when you sift through the backup files from various old computers. You can find old pictures that you thought you had lost. Half-finished notes, poems, a tidbit of an email you thought you might send before you thought the better of it, and just let it sit there.

Or, you can find a little document, only 24 pages in total, entitled simply “Open Letter.” It seemed innocuous enough, so I opened it. Six months of entries, here and there, some longer than others, but they all started the same.

Dear Mom

The hurt, so far removed now, bled on the page.

In each letter, I danced and skirted around the words, like I still do. I couldn’t say “Dear Mom: It’s been eleven days since you died.” No, I couldn’t write those words. I thought it, I know I did. But my fingers wouldn’t type those words.  It was always something like “since you found peace.” Since you passed. Since the light touched your face and I knew you were finally free.

Do I believe all of the above? Yes. I sincerely do.

When I bought flowers this past March 4th, do you know what I told the flower clerk? I told her I was looking for an arrangement for a particular friend, and the arrangement couldn’t have carnations. My friend hated carnations. I caught myself right after the lie slipped my lips. Why did I say that? Even I was confused at the time. I felt at peace when I was surveying the flowers, so why did I lie? Was it to avoid the expression of sympathy, the sadness, the tears? Or is my problem with the word itself? I felt silly correcting myself, especially since the look of sympathy was all the worse for the lie. *sigh*

Dead. You are dead. You died three years ago. Dead. There. I said it. More than once. It is just a word. Of course, most of you know me. I am silly and old fashioned. I know words shape us, as much as we sing and plug our ears with our fingers we know that sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will forever scar us. Or mold us. We are the words we come to love or hate.

But really, I need to own this word. It cannot hurt me, to speak it, leave it, or lay it out in the open. So, for another installment in my open letter, I write the following:

March 20, 2013

Dear Mom:

It has been three years and sixteen days since I last held your hand, kissed your cheek, and laid next to you. I still miss you. The hurt is still there, but it no longer feels like a gaping empty vastness of all the things that might have or should have been. I see you now when I close my eyes and think about you. I don’t see the sickness, the illness, the pills, the morphine patches, the syringes full of liquid sustenance. The hurt and shame you tried to hide because you couldn’t face the fact that you needed someone else. I don’t see that anymore. 

I don’t see your death. Or you dead.

I remember it, but more than anything, I remember you, Mom.  I remember the Mom who hovered like a giant over me, who could protect me from anything. I remember the way you laughed with your whole soul, and I felt the world open up before me. I remember the walks and the banter and the singing, and the arguing. I remember the white-lipped look of rage you got when someone hurt one of your babies. It used to embarrass me, that look, because it invariably meant that someone was about to get a piece of your mind. And everyone in earshot was going to hear it.

A part of me couldn’t say the word “dead”, couldn’t really think it, because there’s that part of me that doesn’t believe you’re dead. I held you in my arms. I saw your chest fall that final time and I heard the release of your last breath. Yes, this is all true. 

But in the corner of my eye, I still see glimpses of an almost six foot woman, close cropped graying hair, in a pink sweater. Sometimes she’s on a bike, sometimes just crossing the street, or picking up a piece of garbage on the side of the road, and I stop and take a second look. The woman is never you, but there’s often something so familiar in the scrunched shoulders and a look of hurt in her face. When I see her, I smile, because I feel you. I bet most of the women think they’re encountering a crazy lady, smiling at them as if she knows them, but you know what? To hell with ’em. Some of them, well, they smile back.

Literally speaking, you are dead by all modern concepts. I have your certificate of death. But much like the medieval period, there is factual truth, spiritual truth, and symbolic truth. And as St. Augustine once intimated (if memory serves me correctly, since it has been many years since I read De Civitate Dei), I do believe factual truth is the lesser of these truths. Why?

Because I still feel you in the earth, in the grass beneath my feet, in the wind, in the sun shining on my sweet daughter’s face, in the joy I feel when she points to the sky and yells “Buh! Buh! Buh!” at the passing birds. You are free. Free of all the hurt, guilt, pain and sadness you carried with you. You are free. I knew it when I saw your face relax, a smile tickle at the side of your mouth, and the pained look that I had seen on your face for so many years finally melt away. I saw that peace when you died.

And Mom? Wherever you are, there is one thing I do know for sure – you will always be with me. And I will always love you.

Your loving daughter, now and until the end of time,

R. 

Spirit of Christmas

A few days ago, I found myself looking through various Christmas plants, trying to find just the right one to bring to my Mom. For some reason, I couldn’t find one anywhere I went. And while I couldn’t find the right plant or flowers, I knew she probably didn’t care. It was just my mission. To let her know I still think about her. Every day. And how much I wished I could have seen her hold my daughter- just once – before she left us.

So, you can imagine my surprise (and tears) when I opened up my Christmas present from my sweet, sweet husband.

Gramma Christine finally gets to hold her granddaughter.

My husband’s only request to the artist was that the drawing reflect the joy the two would have felt if they had ever met in person. I think he succeeded.  In spirit, I know my mom would have held her exactly like this.

And I am so grateful that a moment like below could happen, a picture I am posting with permission from my amazing sister, Dark Moon (a.k.a. The Monster in Your Closet). It is obviously the inspiration for the above picture. I am just so happy my mom was able to meet at least one of her grandchildren, so each of us could see the joy she would have had in ours.

Even in her last moments, there was so much tenderness. So much light.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I know mine has been amazing.

-The Rambler