Tuesday, August 25, 2015

With the same vulnerable yet rigorous love

My mom would be chuckling right now, as I write yet another post on death and funerals and loss. When her own mother died, it was weeks and weeks of morose and moribund sermons from the pulpit that nearly drove her as crazy as the Oklahoma winds. But here we are go again. I am not sure what in the hell is going on in the universe, but it's been a shitty week for too many friends.

For my dear L.T. Love you.
I have an image of my mother and her sister outside of the church in Beloit, Kansas, wrapped against the cold wind in fur coats, clutching each other as they followed their mother's casket down the path and into the hearse. They were both sobbing, their handsome, strong beauty crumpled from weeks of grief and pushing against the inevitable that a late-stage lung cancer diagnosis for a vibrant and remarkable woman brings. I don't remember much but that intimate moment, my grandmother's legacy stitched up in the space held by that embrace.

I can imagine that my mom felt the same push and pull that I did in those final days of my mother's own life, the real-time grief nearly impossible to process, the guilt-ridden wishing that this part would be over so that she would be free and so that we could move on to mourning her given that she already was a shadow of herself. The hardest thing to process was that she was never going to go back to the way she was, that it was reality, that it was over. And that's what we all mourned in real time, that space of anger and sad, that glimmer of her old self in between the days of losing her moment upon moment. The winding down was hard,  unfamiliar, not sudden like it had been with nearly every one before. And the winding down was slow and then fast and then too slow in its fastness, which doesn't likely make sense unless you've lived through that interminable time of ending.

There are a million things I want to tell my friend tonight, my girl L.T. who texted me in the wee NYC hours to tell me that she had just today lost her mother, an extraordinary woman with fire and depth and sparking adventure and deep love and good strength, so much good strength, for her family. 

I want to tell her of the things that I learned from Marie Howe about the spaces that are made by loss in which I learned about myself, so many years after she had gone: 
     I had no idea that the gate I would step through
     to finally enter this world
     would be the space my [mother's] body made.

And how I wish now that I had written a jar full of memories to keep for myself, a scrap for each, that I could pluck out and savor, some fit for my kids, many only fit for the curious adults within belly-laughing distance. And that I wish I had recorded those stories told in the numb days after when we all walked around with dead eyes, tracing the thin, worn path we had too many times before, knowing that it would be five days before the smoke cleared and we could begin to see what damage had been done.

And that in the blackened landscape, shoots peek through and life comes back to itself.
And that letting those shoots grow is important. Really important. Live.
And that good music helps. Often on repeat.
And saving that thing that smells like her in the back of the closet. That's the best. Do it.

And how five years, five years after she left, I can still be knocked nearly breathless by a poem from May Sarton that comes across my desktop without warning, kismet in far too many ways:

An Observation
True gardeners cannot bear a glove
Between the sure touch and the tender root,
Must let their hands grow knotted as they move
With a rough sensitivity about
Under the earth, between the rock and shoot,
Never to bruise or wound the hidden fruit.
And so I watched my mother's hands grow scarred,
She who could heal the wounded plant or friend
With the same vulnerable yet rigorous love;
I minded once to see her beauty gnarled,
But now her truth is given me to live,
As I learn for myself we must be hard
To move among the tender with an open hand,
And to stay sensitive up to the end
Pay with some toughness for a gentle world.

So, sweet friend, so many things and nothing all at once. I wish there was more space to tell you right now, right in this time where everything and nothing is there. It's too much, all of it, and there is so much more to write.

Love you, L.T. 

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