Thursday, November 26, 2015

#SOL15: Noli Timere

What is Written (M.A. Reilly, 2010, Sant’Anna in Camprena, Pienza)

Noli timere. (Do not be afraid).


There is no emotional preparation for death.

There's nothing that will soften the pain or let loose the frenzied despair that seems now to form the marrow of my bones. Pain is elemental and what I most wish to distance my son from cannot be had. No amount of preparation, no amount of bartering, no desperate late night promises to God will ease our loss.

I know this even as I try not to.


Years ago I sat in the back seat of a limousine with Rob who wrapped his hand around mine. We were stopped at a light and I spent those minutes looking into the windows of cars, fascinated by the ordinary lives of others.  It was a wild animal desperation that seized me, urged me to covet the imagined lives of those passing by. I wanted to loose my body in those moments and become someone else, anyone else, anyone but myself.

Too frantic to sit in my own skin, I shifted as the car started and the truth is that it was only Rob's hand wrapped around mine that tethered me to the earth as we made our way to the cemetery to bury my mother on a too beautiful, too spring day in early May. I simply did not know how to be in the world with her no longer here and my husband's touch was an anchor I could not know I needed.

Touch matters.


Loss can not be preempted.

This is a hard truth I learned at 40 and an impossibly cruel one to learn at 17. My son  is two months shy of that mark and as I watch him I wonder if he is too young to bear the weight of such loss. I want to gather him to me and tell him to prepare, but I don't do this as those words are more for me than him.  I have left the here and now--the place where hope is still kindled and have traveled to a darker, distant time where no amount of preparation can soften what the heart cannot decipher.


I resist the mistaken urge to caution him about matters of death and loss and instead reach out and hold his hand.

We will hurt, I think.
And this pain will reveal the many ways we have been loved.


  1. As an old man I now spend part of each Thanksgiving day at the cemetery. Mom, Dad, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Brother. Each a stab in the heart and the root of compassion as I renew each day. Peace will come, it always does.

  2. Yes, Bill it is the root of compassion. I had not thought of that. The holidays make all of this too dear.

  3. A hauntingly beautiful post and picture. I am thinking of you and your family.

  4. Dear Mary Ann,

    I found your blog through your comment on Thislifeilive. I'm very very sorry for your loss.

    15 years ago I lost my mother. I was 19 and my brother was 12. She died of a lung embolism after a routine surgery. We didn't see it coming.

    I'm pretty sure that your son will manage it. It will take time and there will be lots of hard times but he will do it. As well as you. The hurt never stops but it gets easier.

    Love from Germany

    1. Dear Julia,

      Thank you so much for your kind and generous words. I am touched you took time to write. I am confident Devon will come through this, as will I. It will take lots of time and kindness and contemplation.

      Love from NJ,
      Mary Ann