An Important Distinction

by | Aug 27, 2010 | 0 comments

This morning my shower was brief but it was one of those that eventually released in me those cries and moans that come from so deep within.  I think I remember just asking the one-worded question, “What?”
Because before you can really even get to the why, you have to ask what.  What happened- what’s going on here?  I think I’m still on the what.  

I was thinking about how people keep telling me about how something reminds them of Dan and then they remember- and how they can therefore only imagine how hard it must be for me- everything must remind me of him all day long.  

Actually, I have yet to have that happen really.  Nothing “reminds me” of Dan.  This kind of sorrow is embedded in my soul- it is with me all the time.  Even though there have been many moments and hours and days during which I just couldn’t comprehend what is going on here- I have never once “forgotten” that he has left- that he is gone.  

A friend posted this link on her Facebook page this morning.  It’s a beautifully written article by Joyce Carol Oates after her own husband’s death in 2008.  

But what I found most interesting is a section where she discusses a work of Hemingway’s that features the suicide of an Indian:
Later, walking back to the boats to return home from the Indian camp, Nick asks his father why the Indian killed himself, and his father says, “I don’t know, Nick. He couldn’t stand things, I guess.”  No theory of suicide, no philosophical discourses on the subject are quite so revelatory as these words. Couldn’t stand things, I guess.”

That got me thinking about what simple words would express the pain and place I’m in these days- rather than my own attempts here filled with so many words.   I can’t think of anything right now and I think that’s because I’m not sure what the question is yet.  Nick’s question was “Why did the Indian kill himself?”  What would my question here be?  I’m not sure- but I’m back to the “what.”  
While my parents took Audrey to her gym class, I had a nice visit from another Brooklyn friend.  She brought all the ingredients for gourmet sandwiches- fresh ciabatta rolls, with ham and cheese made with young cow’s milk- I forget the name- olive oil, tomatoes, basil, and a black olive spread she made.   It was another beautiful day today, so we put them together here and ate while sitting on a bench by the river.  That sandwich may be the finest thing I’ve tasted since the call.  
Mary had cancer a couple of years ago, but she is now cancer-free.  She is maybe ten years older than me- maybe more- has beautiful gray hair that is now growing back nicely and she wore in a bob, genuine and caring blue eyes, and a quick wit that  made me laugh out loud more than once, even though we mostly talked about death and life, and after-death.  

At some point I asked her the question I ask most believers- “Do you believe it?”  She said yes.  “But do I have doubts?  Yes.”

But then she talked about how she always comes back to God because “It’s the only thing that makes any sense.”  I closed my eyes and nodded my head as she spoke this and felt a peace wash over me.  It’s like I told the grief counselor yesterday that even though I struggle – I think about it- a bunch of spinning balls in an endless black space- and everything in me screams that this is not all there is.

We talked about her cancer and the things she’s learned and ways in which she grew from such a trial.  And I talked about how I was experiencing healing in many old and broken areas.  “But,” I said protectively, “there can be nothing redemptive about Dan’s death.  No matter what happens from here on, nothing will be worth his death.  I will never say, ‘Oh, Dan died so that this could happen.’ It will never be that formulaic or simple.”

Mary had an excellent insight.  She said that no, there is nothing redemptive about Dan’s death.  It is tragic and doesn’t make sense.  But there may be something redemptive about my grief.  What a beautiful and important distinction. 

And then I saw a butterfly flying up to the top of a tree behind her.  “Keep your eye out for butterflies,” Sarah- another young widow friend- had told me in the very beginning of all this.


August 27, 2010


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