Don’t tell me about loneliness, that fiendish friend.
We all well know its ways, how it arrives
and vanishes, and hollows a sinuous
trail inside density of life like
a worm or a beetle into greenness.
And then unbidden, you follow, track
it with eye of hawk, root out damage
of its work, you howling and quaking,
trying to snatch all up, take it away.
The trickery is that loneliness is a masquerade,
and it seeks to beckon you into places
where the wearied self must seek truth
blooming inside each perilous, solitary ache.
But God sits there, the One you forgot,
God Who flings stars that will forever net you,
Who prunes sorrow with a stubborn mercy.
Then brings forth a mirror, reveals how beloved
are we who somehow imagine abandonment.
This grief is like a stone I cannot dislodge from the spinning center of my being. It makes my eyes small waterfalls. It is a rough hand in the night when I am in need of a soft touch. It melds me to melancholy, seeds my mind with memories. It makes me reach for something and forget what it is, my feet to stumble over the walk I know so well. The world seems so busy living, glad or mystified or angry about it, yes, full of retorts or words of sudden insights or the volleying about of various sorts of love–but at least not steeped in melancholia’s blues, greys. For me sadness is a pearlescent sheen of hurt that illumines day and night with somber beauty. Then the garish crimson of aching creases time, a slice into what I know and don’t know about sorrow. I bleed a little without you knowing it.
It is a relief to softly shout at God, a bold prayer that takes the air from me. It is made of words that only God knows so I cannot tell you what is said when I call out. Grief moans even when it is silent.
Why do we think we must move on, move on, keep up with the ticking of clocks in the midst of our losses? It is a ruinous thing to hurry forth. The river of sorrow takes with it everything and who are we to try to change it? Sometimes I get a foothold on the banks, pull myself up and tell myself, See, this is still the garden of human life on earth. I walk amidst a wilderness of flowers, I find wonder in the work of bees. I can speak to others and they speak back, eyes open. And seeing what? Is my heart showing, is yours? Is there a bridge to be made? We cannot walk across the chasms without help, without solace rendered by other souls.
But what often pulls me is the deep seat of my chair, the mug of tea that offers fragrant spice and sweetness on my tongue. What can soothe but the simplest things? Light that carries day into all corners of the rooms, the dark that sails me into night and beyond. Lessons of God as I meditate and pray. The strains of Debussy and Bach, Dexter Gordon’s jazz saxophone, the dance and drumbeat of Ireland, a wailing flamenco call. There are poems that remind me to be patient, art that reminds me of more to come. But whatever I see and hear, the surge of tears arrives. They are like warm water over the wound.
Some days I want to move on. I want to write things that are abundant in hope, notations of life that will bring to all more promise of fullness within the realms of Spirit. I want to be able to laugh without it being undercut by numbness or misgiving. But everything–the gym, the household chores, the forays into nature, the music and books and calls to friends who love me well, the family I call often, the spouse and others I tend to and who tend to me–everything I do leads me back to one thing: this is the thirty-second day my sister has not been living here, cannot be called, cannot be written or visited in the flesh. This fact is irrevocable within each twenty-four hours. It stares at me until I look back at it and see her face, hear her voice, know her beauty and kindnesses, want her back…perhaps then let her go a little more. But the crying remains, don’t ask me to try to stop it for it is a force that knows far more than I do.
It cannot be changed, grief. It changes us. It deepens and broadens everything, brings us closer to truth. Makes rich what felt paltry and empties what seemed full. It is a thread of grace wound about my being and stitches my longing to the heavens even as it stings. Grief tells tales of valor that end in loss and yearning that leads to more desire and hope that cannot brighten the lay of the terrain I must travel. It is what I hear and know, now, this moment.
So I thought I would not attempt to write today because I cannot speak of happiness, of wise acceptance of death and tenderest things that bring relief. But then I sat down and began, because this is one thing I must still do, let language shape feelings into something I recognize and can love. If we are fully human, we can and do feel it all, cannot ignore the ones that are hard or confusing, and certainly will not make them different than what they are. Not for long. They find a way to stake their claim on us, anyway. So I allow my innermost being to speak to myself, to others, for where is the value in making mute what wants to make a mission of great and small loves? This is the natural bent of the soul. And we have a heart both muscle and guide that must be heard and cared for in order to do its work. To be whole. But even when it falters, it has the greatest, the definitive say.
This heart, the one that beats within me and you. The one that stopped pumping in my sister after long suffering.
Let me give my heart its due, its authority, as did she, and feel the blessing of it. There is nothing else I can do today but let the rains come and breach the walls and in time, adapt, make a finer place again to be and do.
So please bear with my pensive offerings. I cannot hurry up. I have faith in this way and I will find my way back. I always have, God lighting my next steps. In time, prayer, tears, kindness, the glory of nature, creative work will all bring me to another rise in the path and help me see and long for the horizon once again. I do hope you find it in your life if your are sorrowing, too.
A scene from the last yearly Sisters’ Trip taken with my two dear sisters.
An imperturbable demeanor comes from perfect patience. Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune and misfortune at their own private pace like a clock during a thunderstorm.—Robert Louis Stevenson