"All creation springs from emptiness: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void....."
"Emptiness is the pregnant void out of which all creation springs. But many of us fear emptiness. When we first glimpse emptiness, we taste death in it. It feels like an abyss, a sheer drop into eternity, a dangerous negation of all that is alive, visible, safe and good. We prefer to remain in the realm of form, surrounded by things we can see and touch, things we imagine are subject to our control." --Wayne Muller, in his book Sabbath
"If you want to become full, let yourself be empty. If you want to be reborn, let yourself die." --Tao Te Ching
Today we awoke late and I was irritated that we were going to miss church, again. But when your dear husband of 53 years called to tell us of your peaceful passing, I was grateful to be home and not sitting in the pew. It was a quick call and we felt honored to have been on his list and a part of your life. You had only been gone an hour at most. But you had really been gone for some time, with a disease that took your mind away from you, and from us, much too quickly. I hung up the phone and tears took to my face as Kurt and the kids hugged me and each other. It was a fleeting, tender moment.
Within a few minutes, we packed up the car and headed to the gym. What else could we do? The kids wanted to know if you would come back as a baby and I explained you were with God and that He would want to keep you there. They wanted to know if God ever sent people back to live a different life, if I knew whether I had ever been someone else before. All I could tell them was that you were safe with God and that we had to trust we would all be there someday as well.
As we exercised, Kurt and I talked about what we could do for your family: have the kids make cards and homemade cookies, bring them food or a plant. Nothing very exciting. Nothing fancy. We wondered if it mattered. Our hearts simply swelled in sadness for you and yours. In the middle of our conversation, we ran into a suffering friend, one going through an unwanted divorce. I noticed the budding of hope, that life could somehow go on for him even in the midst of helpless emptiness. I wanted to grasp that hope and send it to your house. If only I could.
Later, as the kids built forts with blankets and clothes pins, tunnels and bar stools, we watched football and rejoiced over a hard fought win. But you remained in our thoughts and somehow winning, like the colds we are fighting off, had far less significance than it may have just yesterday.
And then we carved pumpkins. One was partly rotted but we carved it anyway. It had been waiting too long and patiently for us to simply dismiss it. The other was Aidan's prize that he won at school for being good and working hard to earn tickets to put in a special pumpkin drawing. He was so thrilled that he had won and when he came carrying that monster pumpkin off the bus, I was half afraid he might himself fall down and be crushed under its weight as it was half his size and he could scarcely get his arms around it. He chose a skeleton face for me to carve. Madeline chose a witch. Neither turned out that great, but, somehow, it didn't matter much this year. I wondered if your family noticed the dreary fall day we were having, how it matched the mood of your passing. It always seems a cruel irony when someone dies in a day full of sunshine. But that was not today. Today was a day meant for mourning.
The kids spilled a bag of popcorn all over the floor while I was carving and then ran out to play football with their daddy while I cleaned up and made dinner: a quick compilation of random stuff we had in the freezer, fridge and pantry. Nothing very exciting. Nothing fancy. Again, our thoughts turned to you. Aidan wanted to know where you were right then. Not knowing all the details, we explained you were probably taken to the funeral home in preparation for the funeral. We had already explained what would happen at the funeral, and the possibility of your body being seen at a wake. I have to admit, while I know some people need it for closure, the idea of an open casket always gives me the creeps and I am filled with thanks that I was able to say goodbye just a few weeks ago with a simple kiss on your forehead after telling you that my family and I loved you. It was the least I could do. Sadly, it was also the most.
I wondered aloud how your loving husband was doing, his first dinner without you. Kurt suggested badly. I could only think of the emptiness that was ever present in his heart. A void that we would be so lucky (yet so unfortunate) to know many, many years from now. How does one ever fill the emptiness that comes with such a great loss? How does one ever face that void? Love never fades, never fails, but the days go on, with or without us. And that emptiness runs deep in those left behind. If God is still actively creating, is it safe to assume that something could begin to grow in that empty space? Would we even want it to?
While washing dishes, I contemplated the loneliness of your beloved. He would no longer have your dishes to wash. I imagine he would do dishes all day and night if it meant having you there with him just a little longer. And as I was contemplating his loss, the baby in my womb kicked me and reminded me that also in this vicious cycle of life, new birth arises. You didn't know another baby was expected in our house. And you will never meet this child here on earth. Yet he or she reminds me that ever so near death, birth resides; and in the midst of great emptiness, we can also be filled.
So Wally, I pray that you have found fullness and wholeness in your heavenly home and that your life is born once again, into God's peace and presence, as you await the day you are reunited with those you have left behind. Thank you for treating us as family, for acting as another grandma figure to our children, for loving us as you did. We love you and thank God we had you in our lives. And we will miss you dearly.
Peace to you, now and evermore.
Karen and family
This is a lovely and loving post. This past week we too experienced life going on in the midst of loss - our next-door neighbor passed away suddenly. He was not a close friend, but a very good neighbor to us. It is sad, but also affirming to see the family gathering around to help each other.ReplyDelete
P.S. On your two previous posts - your children have some extremely amusing comments!
Karen, only today (12/4) did I read your heartfelt blog regarding Waheltha. Thank you for your kind words and deep feelings; Wahletha loved you and all your family and would have appreciated your thoughtful and loving comments. Thank you...thank you...thank you.ReplyDelete