Your loss, my loss
Most days, after Mass, I stick around to pray. Sometimes I share the church with three or four others, sometimes I’m by myself. Sometimes I’m by the tabernacle, sometimes I just sit in a pew with my eyes closed.
Quiet prayer in church is such a comfort that I marvel more people don’t join me. How do other people keep their equilibrium without it? I kind of think they don’t. I suspect most Americans these days are agitated 24/7. I’m not. I pray.
Since it’s so much in the news, now, I meditated, today, on the agony of losing a child. It’s little consolation to me that my child is still with me. There’s no solace in the realization that other people are the ones taking the loss. Grief is grief. Grief is public property. I see no advantage in disowning grief.
The grief stirred up such maudlin thoughts! I did what I’d never done before and sobbed in the church. I’m not going to let embarrassment keep me from sharing the thoughts that pulled at my heartstrings. I should, perhaps, because my thoughts were ridiculous. It’s easy to ridicule grief. Ridicule is one of the ways we have of keeping grief at bay.
I don’t dare call it poetry, but it is an accurate account of the thoughts that made me cry this morning:
IN THE WAKE OF THE SANDY HOOK MASSACRE (12-14-12)
And for whom?
The last thing I remember, the last thing
was packing her lunch.
No. That’s not right.
We argued about her sweater.
“Can’t you see? There’s a stain.”
“No time. I’m late already.”
Today she went to school with ketchup on her sweater,
her white sweater, the one with the bunny, from Nana
A dark red stain, fading to brown
Over her heart, fading to brown
Again it tolls,
For someone else, I’m sure.
The same dream recurs
For eight years, now, night after night
I’ve shared it with no one
The nightmare requires no interpretation
I have her by the hand.
I turn away. Why?
When I turn back, she’s gone.
And then I wake up.
I wake up. I wake up.
And still it tolls,
For you perhaps.
I’ve always made a point to count my blessing.
I value what I have, while I still have it.
Why wait until it’s gone?
In our home there was light.
Beautiful. Radiant. Resplendent.
The only words I have to describe her.
How far did that light shine?
To the edge of the driveway?
To the front porch?
To the door we never needed to lock?
She was the light in our home.
Once more it tolls,
Alas, it tolls for you.
Holding on is the easy part.
Keeping her safe.
It’s the sending forth that hurts,
The letting go.
I watch her walk into the shadows,
and then out of view.
But still I watch;
when I can’t hold her in my view.
I’m watching when she doesn’t think I am.
I watch her every moment.
I’m watching her now.
So loudly, loudly it tolls.
Oh God, it tolls for her!
Where does it go?
The love, the calm, the light.
It’s the light to which I testify,
and testify again;
But now I testify that darkness overpowered light,
and light could not extinguish it.
Had I been there,
Oh, had I been there,
It would have been me, not her.
How I long to take her injury,
and taste her death,
and give to her my life.
Unceasingly it tolls,
It tolls, it tolls it tolls
And always for me.