Thursday, August 4, 2016

#SOL16: Amid the Stars

Mountains (M.A. Reilly, 2016)

Some days the world is grey as if all the color, the very brightness of life had been bled out.

Think carcass. That's the body of grief.

It's a heaviness that wears, like on those days when you first hear with sheer disbelief of another mass killing. At those times, the weight of loss that the parents, wives, sisters will be feeling--feeling after the shock has worn a bit, I feel too. The impossible road before those who survive, I am making as I walk. I feel the weak beat of hearts and claim their sadness as my own.

And it feels important to acknowledge that it is not Rob's death alone that amps the empathy I feel for those who grieve. But rather, it is his death, alongside the one month of uncertainty and shock followed by five months of terror that framed most days.

I hadn't named the terror before. I felt mostly a deepening void. I had no language to represent that daily pulse of life. But now I know that is was terror I largely felt.

Blinding terror.
Paralyzing terror.

Days passed into weeks with no ease of tension and finally a respite appeared and then quickly returned to more terror.


Love bears witness to what we find most unspeakable. Beneath the grey, love lingers with a patience we hardly knew we might possess.

Strong love.
Resilient love.
Necessary, like breathing.

It's odd. After the death of my husband, I would have thought that love would have fled--hid itself, as Yeats suggested, amid a crowd of stars. But Yeats was wrong about love hiding its face. It does not retreat. It does not flee. Not to mountains. Not to fields. Not to stars above.

Rather, love grows stronger, finding expression in strength. Finding expression in memory. Finding expression in the vulnerability that most makes us most human.


At the beginning of the summer, Devon and I were talking one night about Rob. I shared how much I missed his dad as I tried to stem the tears. It had been an impossibly long grey day spent in the town where Devon had first had gone to school. Everywhere I looked, every place I passed was a memory of a time when we were so impossibly young, when the promise of life--a long life, seemed written as truth. There was the movie theater where we held Devon's eighth birthday and I remember how Rob  and I sat in the very back row, holding hands throughout the movie while Devon and his friends ate popcorn and laughed. There was the candy store we took him to every now and then as a treat. And I recalled  how Rob and I met at Dev's school and waited on the sidewalk so we could watch him and his classmates parade around the school in their Halloween costumes. We were so in love and all I knew as I drove from that town, from our past, was that I wanted my husband back. I had grown so weary and knowing I would not be able to even touch him again was slaying. I knew by this time that my grief was not my son's and when Devon looked at me a bit confused I thought it was the raw emotion he was witnessing that caused him to pause.

It was not. Rather he waited a moment and then said that his dad had not left us.

We carry him in us. He's who we are. He formed us.


It's been five months since Rob died and nearly a year since we first were told that he had lung cancer.

There are moments when the world feels cruel, when terror beats so loudly, so insistently, that the drumming of love is dim.

But love does not fail. Rob's death has taught me this.

It is the constant that beats beneath, alongside, and above our intentions and selves, cradling all that is fragile within. Love remains beyond our bodies, beyond the limitations of mortal touch.


  1. Rather, love grows stronger, finding expression in strength. Finding expression in memory. Finding expression in the vulnerability that most makes us most human.
    I believe that this passage tells me so much about your strength, and the way in which you have sought the universal in your own personal grief. Devon's words to you are so wise-his father's son.

    1. He is his father's son. And he is his 17-year-old unique self. Both.
      thanks, Tara.

  2. from BK (Note I posted this twice for some reason and Bonnie replied on the other post which I hve deleted. I wanted to save her reply though so here it is:
    BKAugust 4, 2016 at 6:04 AM
    Yes! Yes Yes!
    Such an amazingly powerful piece!
    Yes the loss is terror and yes to Devon
    He's in us and
    Yes the love is here!
    Without it it's hopeless
    Yes to life!
    Wonderful watching the Donald unravel isn't it?

    1. Yes yes yes, Bonnie.
      I just had never named what I went through as terror. So powerful to name.