Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What it Was I Was Listening For


                                               ...The space we stood around had been emptied
                                               Into us to keep, it penetrated
                                               Clearances that suddenly stood open.
                                               High cries were felled and pure change happened.
                                                                                - Seamus Heaney, from Clearances, VII


I.

Forgetfulness (M.A. Reilly, 2010)
On a too early day in May, I watched my mother die. There is simply no easy way to buffer that truth. I stood beside her bed, touching and not touching, hearing even now, fifteen years removed, her chest rattle as I bargained with an indifferent God. Just a bit more time though I knew she suffered. And regardless of all of those years I spent on my knees--the hard kneeler a kind of penance for sins committed and not--God was mute. Tight-lipped. Taciturn.

I never quite knew what it was I was listening for.

II.

Time passes like a list begun more than once, left tucked inside the pocket of a winter coat worn last season. This is how grief moves and fails to move. Memories arise from the least provocation like a wave that swamps me. And I am drowning here on a Tuesday morning on day too much like the day we set her in the ground--a too beautiful, too early spring day at that.  I sit next to the grown daughter and her mom--both out for some talk, out for a pair of pedicures--nothing too goddamn special.  And it's the ordinariness of it that most undoes me.

I am desperate for Heaney's pure change.

III.

There's little to know when burying the dead. Knowing is a false balm that does not soothe. Knowing is a way to stand still, like that cup of tea made and remade that is still waiting on the counter, long cooled and forgotten.  With each lived moment, I edge closer to leaving and nothing terrifies me more than the thought of my son bargaining with some god on a too early, too spring morning. What words will he proffer?  Have I even taught him how to listen?  Language is a vice--one part fixed, one part moving--a bolt through the heart.

I tell you love is nothing if not epic.





19 comments:

  1. You are a beautiful writer and I feel honored that I had privilege to read this heartfelt, honest reflection by you on the passing of your mother, all brought back to you while having that pedicure. I think my favorite lines is 'And it's the ordinariness of it that most undoes me." It was then that my eyes welled. But then when you switched to thinking of your own son, you really got me...Can we teach this? Your ending is powerful. Truly a bolt through my heart as I reflect on those who have left me and time I still get to spend with my 80 year old mother and then wondering about my now grown girls. Have I taught them enough? So I cry as I read your words and then laugh a bit seeing that "Get a Pedicure" is on my To Do List today.
    Thanks for sharing your slice with me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sally so much for your kind words. It means a lot to know the post affected you.

      Delete
  2. This was a hard post to read, having just returned from visiting my 90 year old parents. But, a beautiful post...as always.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This was a hard post to read, having just returned from visiting my 90 year old parents. But, a beautiful post...as always.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can imagine. It was hard to push publish on this one.

      Delete
  4. You must have been shocked by the raw pain that something so ordinary caused.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not shocked so much as attentive. Thanks Bernadette for taking time to read and comment.

      Delete
  5. As always, Mary Ann, the depth and nuance of your writing totally moves me. You take an experience and its accompanying feelings and tie it to the ordinary then move it to a possibility with such grace. Thank you for sharing your journey and insights.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Deborah for taking time to read and offer your insights. The feelings are very, very mutual.

      Delete
  6. Mary Ann, your raw feelings are exposed in this courageous and beautifully written piece. May peace be with you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Beautifully raw, Mary Ann. Thank you. Echoing Sally...I was also moved by the line "And it's the ordinariness of it that most undoes me."

    When I've contemplated the passing of a friend or loved one, sitting beside their bed or upon hearing the news, I'm often moved by the emotion that both their passing evokes and, more curiously, how when I look outside my window or drive down the road, I realize that the world continues on as if nothing has happened. And, yet, everything has.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can recall being in a limo for a funeral and being on a highway. As I looked out the window I was surprised and perhaps oddly relived to see others going about their business. The need for normal is never so acute as when we are most vulnerable.

      Delete
  8. Replies
    1. Thank you Susan. A hard post to publish.

      Delete
  9. Mary Anne, you write our trauma with poignant elegance. Thank you. It made me go back and read what I wrote to engrave grief.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read your recent post and thought about how potentially rhizomatic this all is--how way leads on to way.

      Delete