02 February 2012


I have long loved the mournful, hollow, resinous sound of the bow when it slides with an ache across the body of the cello. I imagine it brings pain to the bow and strings at the same time as it brings me tears and creates an unmistakable aura of otherness.

Driving home from mom and dad's, head swimming with what it must mean for Joshua to have his father gone and listening, quite by chance, to R.E.M.'s "Sweetness Follows" as the road rises at the nine-mile mark on Highway 70. The cello's lonesome notes pervade the dim interior of my pick-up and reverberate in my head. "Readying to bury your father and your mother....what would you think if you lost the other....yeah, yeah we were altogether lost in our little lives...."

The five of us together again (with Angela and Joshua having been in Arkansas for about ten days), we found ourselves sitting by the fire, talking uneasily about the details of death. Of the small, handmade wooden box that holds Alvin's remains. About the sweet posey of scarlet roses that topped it at the burial service on the windy plains of Arkansas. Of the way his color changed to cooler hues in the last moments of earthly existence. About the very realness of how Pam trembled and had to escape the room after her husband peacefully slipped from this life to his eternal home. It all makes me awfully uncomfortable, as it does anyone, I suppose. But there are the facts, staring back at us, saying "we can't help it." These are facts we don't have to deal with often, thankfully.

And Joshua, this fair-haired, kind, clever, thoughtful man who was a stranger to me nine years ago when he married my sister -- he sits across the room from me, his eyes a bit distant but his head squarely on his shoulders. I feel such a surge of tenderness for him in this moment. There is a deepening -- I love him, he lost one he loves, I love him more. This sort of growth comes with shared life experience, with grief, with age, and is something I have not understood to be this kind of true until now.

Alvin died on January 24th, the day I turned thirty-five, the day I shuddered with the realization that I'm five years away from forty, the day I began internalizing that things really are changing, that those I love desperately will not always be with me, that I will be the elder some day. Soon.

Until then, we remember those who have gone from us. We shall share their stories and their wisdom to keep them with us. We cling happily to those who are yet with us, and we live in gratitude for the days we have together here -- for the beauty we create and share and taste together. And we will live in grateful expectation of the heavenlies that will be ours when we are released and all go singing, shining home.