Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese" has been keeping me company as I make my way through the first day after Rob's death. It is the poem I have selected for the 'prayer' card for his service. This is a day filled with tentative steps for nothing feels secure, known, or familiar. And so I recognize that it is not so unusual that I have felt unmoored, loosed from this earth--a wild thing with a frantic heart.
My husband, my anchor is gone.
We no longer breathe the same air, nor are we bound by the same constraints of space and time.
We no longer touch, or kiss, or gaze upon the other.
We no longer offer, nor receive, simple gestures.
We whisper nothing is one another's ear.
The absence of such simple corporeal matters highlights the incongruities of body and spirit.
The moment Rob died, his spirit vanished. Left behind was a body I did not know.
|A Kindergartner's Response: What do you do when your heart hurts?|
The mail most days is filled with catalogs in both our names. The mailbox is often stuffed--over stuffed. One set of catalogs for Cohen and an identical set for Reilly. Most days there are catalogs I don't want and medical bills I can't afford. So it was a pleasant surprise when I returned home after seeing to the funeral arrangements to find a thick manila envelope mixed in with the bills. Inside was a card and a collection of young children's drawings and writing. A friend, a principal at a school in Newark, NJ sent Rob and me this package. She wrote,
Since I know how much you both love children, I figured I'd ask some kindergartners what they do when their hearts hurt.
What can I do when my heart hurts is no academic question. I eagerly viewed what each child drew and read what each wrote. I read as if each text was a hieroglyphic to decipher; a language for which I was uninitiated.
What can I do when my heart hurts?
Each paper was an answer and as I read I thought how Rob would have enjoyed these too and what we might have learned from the minds and hearts of these youngsters. Each child's work seemed to repeat what Oliver tells us at the beginning of the poem: "You only have to let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves."
Love what it loves.
For the children their loves included candy and rainbows, rain, sun and hugs.
Rob is gone from the earth, gone from the familiar world we have composed, gone from the daily care my hands showed him these last few weeks when he could no longer care for his own body. As I watched him die I knew when his spirit left his body. It was a definitive moment--perhaps the definitive moment. A light switch turned off.
Now I am left with a looming darkness I am seeking not to fill--at least not too quickly. An emptiness that is more about the necessity of love than not.
For isn't it mostly always about love?
And in the late afternoon light, the same light that saw the end of my husband's life a mere 24 hours earlier, I realized that I had misplaced, perhaps forgotten how the soft animal of my body loves what it loves.
Loves what it loves.
There's no turning away from such truth.