Sunday, September 18, 2011

Those wide, soft wings

        Walking through steeply angled afternoon light in a rural hillside cemetery in early autumn is almost a pleasant jaunt, even if the purpose is to locate and mark the site for burial of someone you well know.  Changing leaves, a few sunlit, silvery threads of spider web, and endless, all too brief life stories written, of course, in stone.             
             In my wanderings, I came upon two stones side by side, neighbors of a sort.  Casually reading the inscriptions, I was struck by the fact that both marked the resting place of wives of the same man, unless during that era two men of the same name existed in the same area at the same time.  How could both women, I wondered, have been his wives?  Pondering a bit, I carefully compared the dates on both stones.  One woman had died at age 16, the other at age 25.  This then raised the possibility that both had died of complications relating to childbirth, a common cause of death in young women in those years.  At that time, also, it was common for a man to remarry as soon as possible, often to a sister of the first wife.  Since both women shared the same initial after their ‘given’ or first name on the stone, this seems to have been the case.              
             That one tiny community graveyard with so many untold, unrecorded, and yet fleshly stories sleeping there, calling out to those with the wits to hear their call.  In the dry crunch of the occasional leaf, in the shifting shadows of shading trees, haunting voices open wide among the growing things of the wild forest forever encroaching on the neat-mowed patch reserved solely for memories. 
            When my Dad died, he left me to be a very different person from that moment.  Nothing will ever be quite the same.  In one single, hard exhalation of his breath into my two accidentally-waiting hands (as I was in the process of placing his oxygen lines on his face), he passed along to me, unsuspecting, a large part of his immediate and new understanding of death, as well as a version of his own dignity and sense of tragedy in leaving life.
            He was a man of deep moods and hard-won survival instincts, a man with an insatiable passion for life that few around him could begin to understand.  At his passing, I lost a parent, a friend, and a co-conspirator with many facets.              
           Death, to me, is a transient thing.  One wears out a body like a suit of clothing often re-sized in a rough way, and then one – the ‘real’ one – moves on.  In our passing, if it has been a good life, we leave, more than anything else, understanding.  Lessons go unspoken, soft as an owl’s wings in that darkest night, as enigmatic as the gentle conversations of doves at early dawn.
             In regards to Ronnie’s mother, things were very different.  She spoke to me only days before her passage in a way inferred as confidential (oddly, perhaps, as several others have done among years past).  She spoke specifically of regrets and mistakes made, efforts to return to a good life and to find love of an unexpected kind in a second, adoptive sort of household.  She had, she said, found joy among her tragedies, and was ready, at peace with herself and seeking only peace among her children and siblings.  She wondered at those who could not understand her inner acceptance of death as a cumulative part of life itself.  “They just don’t understand,” she said with a gentle shake of her head.  “They haven’t heard the silence yet.”
               I am aware that a discussion of death is not always welcome, and ironically, I believe I have a glimmering of an idea of why.  Yet, for myself, to hold a three-dimensional object and pretend that it isn’t more than a flat snapshot image of the original is simply impossible. 
              To give something forward, to communicate well, one must observe and consider the available facts from every direction … and yet go searching for more and better information unceasingly.
              Grief comes in many guises, as do love, joy, and peace.  These emotions can be one and the same, twined with less positive ones in an extricable way, all of it woven into an intricate basket of reality to hold individualized forms of sanity in.
As such, I take pen in hand to weave my own basket of remembrances, to share what has come my way.  In humble, imperfect words and/or actions, each of us seeks to do the same.
               Speaking of the easy, merciful wings of angels, of bright lights that call to seekers, or of a return to the ultimate mother, the Earth, is all the same.  Peace is, ultimately, individual.  Like a signature, each imprint of it is different, yet indistinguishable as what it is.
               Comfort that goes beyond the fleshly, beyond ‘things’ or material objects is what we all search for daily.  This ease goes beyond outward differences of color or race, creed or Way or faith, and yes, even beyond life.  Peace is beyond the value of gold or diamonds, and all too brief when found.  Seek you, then, some temporary, beloved shelter in those wide, warm wings of its sweet embrace.  

Special note: This entry is inspired and touched by the passing of Dorothy Marie Martin Tipton (Dawson) Foley, a mother-in-law of many facets who died September 15th, 2011.  Rest in peace, ‘Yo Mama’. ~ RLMT