|What is Written (M.A. Reilly, Tuscany, 2009)|
We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.
- Toni Morrison, 1993
It is never quite as simple as missing him.
It isn't until the late 15th century that regret works its way into the definition. Before that missing was more about failing to get what you wanted.
And then regret showed up.
Missing is too anemic a posture. Too sterile. Too boxed-up-pretty.
I don't simply miss Rob. I wish it could be that simple. That kind.
Sometimes when my language shows its limits, it also brings to light a deeper syntax and for a moment I notice how interchangeable wishing and feeling are. How they obfuscate as they reveal.
Most everything is moveable and mute.
Grief is more tacit than not. More implicit than voiced. Even as scores of writers attempt to codify grief with their memoirs and remembrances or fill pages with the strict talk of psychological stages and loose advice--the desperate pain that has broken and re-formed my body's too-slim bones, still resists the easy metaphors about time and roller coasters, waves and shore.
Once upon a time
all the king's horses
and all the king's men
and even Humpty himself
knew that missing was never a consideration.
Yesterday I was rereading Toni Morrison's Nobel lecture. It's been at least ten years, if not longer, since I last took a look. This time it was the repetition of what rests in hands and the space the narratives open that caught my heart. It was the stories that get made between the old woman and the group of young people as they circle each other, equally blind and seeing, that moved me, that forged a path through these multiple narratives to arrive at the end when the old woman says to the young people (and us)
Finally...I trust you now. I trust you with the bird that is not in your hands because you have truly caught it. Look. How lovely it is, this thing we have done - together."
In the last hour of Rob's life I clasped his hand between both of mine and held. I held and murmured words, bits of phrases that sounded like, Let go. Find peace. We'll be okay. Let go.
A litany of half poems, half prayers. I was anchoring him, not to this earth, not to our time together, but to something more enduring than our hands, our bodies, our selves.
I was wrapping him and me in this story I am telling so that when he crossed from here to there he would do so feeling the touch of his wife, his lover, his best friend. Feeling until what was earthly gave way to what would be next.
What was within our hands then was unnamable in that late afternoon light. I remember those last minutes. The rough sound of his breathing. The way his jaw unlocked, loose like the lift of a bird finding new flight.
A wild bird lifting.
I don't remember lifting my phone and making a photograph of my dying husband--one I found this week. One I must have taken sometime during that last hour when the rose colored towel was beneath his head that rested on the pillow I now sleep with each night.
Do I miss him? Could love ever be so ephemeral? So fleeting?
Imagine a story you know by heart. One you love more than the words you use to tell it. It is a story that has transcended the language in which you think. It is a story that lacks meaning.
Now, imagine what it costs to willingly open your hands and release that story, that man, your heart.
That story was never mine alone and it is this connection that sources beauty and pain as it touches me here, now.
What is not in my hand now is what I most trust.
I didn't, perhaps couldn't, know what we caught as we lived and languaged each day. What we made.
I didn't know what I sealed between his and mine hands as he crossed from here to there.
I didn't know it would be this simple act of love that would sustain me a year later and would allow me to say here and now--that this thing we made together was truly lovely.