Sunday, December 5, 2010

Descent into Grief

My heart must reach the bottom of my grief before it can turn toward the light. It knows this, but it hates the dark, and refuses to go down, clinging to ledges for weeks or months at a time, keeping me running and waiting at the surface. Running in my war paint, my face turned helplessly away from the event that I cannot stop, weaponless against the passing time, wearing this stubborn mask without tears.

Yesterday I visited Dad and found him greatly weakened, sleepy, with his humor and spark dimmed. He asked about work, and the recent changes in the company, and so we talked shop for several minutes, though it tired him. I realized later that it might have been the last time I ever do that with my Dad. My heart was quiet while I was there, but during the solitary drive home, through the falling snow and the deepening gloom of evening, I felt a pressure build against my chest.

Later that evening, after dinner and chores were done, my heart lost its grip of the slope, and the pressure sent it hurtling backwards, falling into the dark. My painted face at the surface caught a glimpse of life without my father, and it froze, still unable to shed tears, struck by the loss, feeling an emptiness.

And meanwhile the normal events of my life continue, and they give me a fierce, exalted, primitive joy. On my road home I had passed a hilly field of black angus, with tiny calves frolicking in their first snowfall, dark gamboling shapes against the spotless white, and I laughed out loud. The stark light and dark of life and death casts things into sharp immediacy, and the shadows are colored, painting my face, dying my heart now blue, now purple.

The tears will come later, or I will paint them into being. I am waiting for the falling to stop, and for my heart to cower and cringe again at some darker, deeper level of the pit, though I sense it will still be far from the bottom.

9 comments:

Pagan Sphinx said...

My father died suddenly in 2005. I hadn't seen him for two years due, as we were on two separate continents. I miss him every day that passes but life does continue with its little and large sparks of light that continue to flicker or burn.

Lisa said...

I don't know what to say except that I'm very sorry that grief is coming to stay for a while.

Let the tears come when they come.

Hugs to you, Steve.

linda said...

loss, if it is large chunks or little tiny pieces of loss, it still hurts more than is sometimes bearable...but we fight, we claw, we resist, we will do anything ... i like your idea of war paint and may try it myself...in a painting... much love, steve, i am hoping whatever is best for him. you, my friend, must throw paint. too.

'the shadows are colored, painting my face, dying my heart now blue, now purple.'

DebD said...

This is a hard journey for everyone involved to go through. I hope it is as gentle as can be for everyone.

Oh and I know about those painted faces. I had one stuck on me this morning at liturgy.

Summer Skeeter said...

Sometimes the only hope or end of the despair is that God picks the bottom up, bringing us with. I hope that you taste hope in these days of eating the bread of sorrow. I hope that your father has a good death when it comes.

the GyPsY said...

:-(

susan said...

While we live we feel immortal but there's no reminder more poignant of our very limited time than the loss, or anticipated loss, of someone who is our heart.

Nothing said can make this time easy but there's a quote by Rabindranath Tagore I've remembered for a long time:

'Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.'

Steve Emery said...

Dear everyone - thank you so much for these kind words and for the thought gifts for my heart to ponder. Dad passed away quietly yesterday morning. More in another post...

C said...

my sympathies, steve. he'll always be with you. sounds corny, but it's true.
also true is that the gold is in the darkness.