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