Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Weekend, Life Reflections

A number of my readers have lost, or will lose too soon, a parent, a friend, a loved one. Borepatch, Rebecca, Robert, Bullets and Biscuits, Larry, too many others. Ted, I've talked to at length about it, and those conversations have stayed with me (and thank you for the long chat this week while I was on the road). The rest of you, all I've been able to do is leave short comments which don't reflect well enough what I wish to convey.

I lost my Mom when I was just a young adult, and I watched my Dad stumble through the coming months in a haze of loss while trying to be a parent to shell shocked children. That had to be harder than the grief. We all know that every life must end, some tragically young, to war or a senseless accident, or to disease, but nothing in us wishes to accept it. For the true majestic, incandescent blindness of love is its willful refusal to fully acknowledge that at some time death will take someone from our lives here.

I look at a photo of her on my desk taken so many years ago, when she was alive but fading, when Dad would return to the home he still lives in, with shadowed corners and open windows, and he'd collapse on the sofa from worry and exhaustion. Losing my mother seemed impossible, she was never so alive as in those last years when she fought so hard to stay that way, still death came too soon for her age, and for mine.

Yet she is still with me. Whenever you've been touched by love, a heart-print lingers, so that you're always reminded of the feeling of being cared for, knowing that, to someone, if only briefly, you mattered. Every hour, every day is grace. Savor that, for it's not simply who you've lost that counts, it's what you do with the legacy of love that is left to you.

All around my little town I see the dead. In the small memorial of toys and flowers at those tragic turns in a road, in a sign erected in the memory of a local killed in a long ago war. How important these undistinguished little memorials. Every death is a memory that ends here, yet continues on, life flowing on, sustained by memory. How thankful we are for these memorials, for the spirits smoke that stays with us after the candle has been blown out.

I remember a funeral service held, not on an Easter Sunday, but not long after Memorial Day, and its significance was not so much for the day it was held, than for who was being remembered, another young local soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. The site was adorned with flags, small ones at grave site and larger ones near the folding chairs.

Taps would be played, with one young soldier playing the echo. I imagined the grieving family hearing it and realizing that it meant distance. The dead were not sleeping, they were gone. Then later, the final taps were played, and there was no echo, yet they still remembered it, for the memory helped them hold on. With enough behind it, perhaps even an echo can sustain.

You never expect, to be left with only that echo, the smell of perfume in the air, or the brush of cotton from a uniform shirt, unworn for too long. We're here, then we are not. None of us have any guarantees.

But then, one day, you are strong enough to look back, on all that is left. It's like opening up a long closed door. You have to lean on the door, sometimes with your full weight as it's been closed for so long, Then slowly and with the painful rendering of wood held shut for months or years, it creaks open, and the light that falls from the lighted hallway shifts and moves into the long held darkness.

You look in carefully, hearing only the wind of your grief from outside of you, afraid to move further, head slanted towards the door as if you wish to see, but are afraid to. You'll stand there, sometimes for hours, breathing slow, hand on the doorknob and foot poised to step back, or forward, until your eyes fall upon what's in the room, and what is there is sadly empty of sentience.

For it's not going to contain the answers you want, reason or explanations. But sometimes, if you step into that small shaft of light that peers into the darkness, you may find peace, inky comfort in the unknown


Joel said...

When my Mom died, the preacher talked about her going to a place where her pain and limitations were taken away. That focused me on her life and afterlife which helped me get out of myself. Now, that promise holds for my future as well.

Borepatch said...

Easter will not contain the answers you seek for your departed loved ones. Easter is there for you, and it has a message perhaps too simple for these sophisticated days:

Live. Life begins again, for you. If you want it to.

Beautiful post, Brigid. And thank you for being there for me.

Hat Trick said...

Profoundly beautiful.

Thank you for sharing.

Rev. Paul said...

Yes, thank you. I'll remember your words as Dad fades away. It helps to talk to those who have survived such a loss, even if only in writing.

stopsign said...

Beautiful post! I just lost my mom April 6th. 2 weeks now~I'm really missing her.

Keads said...

Thanks B. for once again a beautiful post. I do have to agree with Borepatch that Easter is an affirmation of life.

Only ff you so choose. I know a lot of living dead. They just don't know it.

Thanks for making me still feel alive, it would be easy to not confront what lies ahead for me. I choose not. There is comfort in your words I will seek sometime later.

Larry said...

Thanks Brigid.

Mike said...


This post is about more than living beyond the grief of death. It is about living through whatever impacts our lives and knocks us down and threatens to bind us as long as we live. For some it is depression. For others, alcoholism. For others, something else. We all have something that can diminish our lives.

Thank you for a moving, timely post.


Sherry said...

Just a few days ago, I received word that a good friend of mine for over 35 years, died suddenly. It has been difficult. Thank you for this timely post.

Maura said...

I lost my parents suddenly over 20 years ago, and I still find myself watching something on tv, and thinking about how my mom would like to see that show too. It’s a sad smile when I glimpse my son writing with his left hand and eating with his right, and see my father’s true ambidextrous abilities carried forward.
The hole in your life is palpable, and never truly heals.

Old NFO said...

Profound... and timely... I'm sharing this with a friend who lost her Mother last night after a long illness.

Six said...

Thanks Brigid.

Alan von Altendorf said...

majestic, incandescent blindness of love


Rachel said...

Thank you.

Such timely words. I've been through it before and am facing it now.

BK sent me here, and I'm glad she did.

Brigid said...

Rachel - Welcome! I hope the future brings you more joy than sorrow.

Maura - as young as you are, that has to be tough to lose them both. They would be very proud as to the woman you have become.

Alan - I have my moments. :-)

Nora said...

That's truly one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I've had the pleasure to read, thank you.

Brigid said...

Nora - Welcome to my home and thank you so much. The blog is quite an assortment of whatever is in my head, but if you get past the silly and the food (both a big part of my personality) there are a number of posts much like this one in the archives.

LB @ BulletsandBiscuits said...

Oh my, you just touched me to the bone with this post. Awesome writing lady! I know a couple people I am forwarding this to

Jim said...

Everything changes, whether we wish it to or not.