Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Joy in Grieving

Yesterday was the 6-month anniversary of San's last breath, five hours after my children and I blessed her and bid her leave to go as she slept away the last of her life of almost 68 years.  I did not think of her as "old" in any way.  Until her liver failed in the last couple of weeks, San never looked her age except in infancy.  The people who knew her thought I'd made a typo on her memorial service when I gave her birth year as 1940.  Her students may have thought of her as a mother figure.  To think of her as a grandmother was a real stretch.  I thought of her as my girl.  We were youthful with each other and for each other even as we neared the dimming of our days together.

I have done no research into grief.  I can't tell you about stages of it unless I notice I have moved from one form of it into another form.  I don't want to know the template.  I only want to know experience as I live it and look back on it, this experience, anyway.  In the history of the world, San was just a speck, as I am.  In the history of 2008 in the U.S., San was just one of 40,000 women who perished from breast cancer.  Yet, to say that is to reduce the dignity of human life to a statistic, and I am sorry for even putting a number into this memorial of grieving.  Every one of the 40,000 was one.  We do not live as a statistic, we live as a unity, a point of focus of the grand energy that spins life, weather, worlds, galaxies, epochs, sinners, and saints.  

The one is the one I bless here.  San was one and now she is one with the One.  I have only indirect knowledge of the One.  I sense that I am its instrument, but I can't tell you more than that.  The One is the source and also the final home of all the little ones.

So, rather than tell you all that I have done since my grieving began in July, I will tell you a thing that came to me from that source that feeds my imagination with metaphors.  A friend approached me at a conference in early November to ask sincerely how I'm doing.  I gave a sincere answer.  The words are somewhat different each time I give that answer.  That's OK; there is more truth than one telling ever can express.  Just as you can't talk about The Border War era in Kansas and Missouri in one voice, you can't talk about the loss of a spouse in one telling.  I said what my friend hoped to hear, that San had suffered no agony at the end, that the vigil at her side that last day was much like watching the tide go out.

Little did I know what I'd released with that metaphor.  Ten minutes later, while listening to an angel, who appeared in the person of the poet Naomi Shahib Nye, give one of the best talks I've ever heard, I realized that I had just received a poem.  It came in one piece admitting of no editing, and it stands as my report on the life that passes and the life that continues.

When I woke and sensed
the tide of her life
had gone out,
I knew I was not
the dry beach
but the ocean.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can so relate with your feelings on griefing. Each day I look back on the life of my youngest son who passed in 2006. Those snipits of his smiling face and steps he took in life give me the courage to go on. He passed during one of my last semesters at Mizzou (I was on the forty year plan)and it was his smile that made me continue and not give up the goal I had set for myself. I could see him in all my fellow students so much younger than I.

He was born so close to Christmas 35 years ago and left a son who is now 13.......and has his dads smile. Life will go on, and I will see him again.

I just need to continue to remember all those snipits of his life, and I feel his warmth.