12.17.2012

still slaying dragons

Friends, I'm sharing a post I wrote and published here in May 2010, along with a brilliant poem by my grandmother. It feels right to share this again today. I wish it did not. Love to all of you--much, much love.

Forever-goneness. A glorious term coined by my young-woman grandmother to describe the end of day. Coined before she met her future husband, before she bore six children. Before her oldest child, her daughter Nancy, died. Run over by a car, dropped off from school and exiting the car on the street side. Before two of her other children, Jeffrey and Becky, died of illness in early childhood, one in a crib and the other in an institution. Before her husband died young, after a long illness, carrying around his oxygen tank, getting his kids to buy cigarettes for him. He died when their youngest child, my namesake, was still a teenager. I was only a baby and never knew him.

I never talked with my grandmother about Nancy or her other children. Or about her husband. Nor have I talked about them with my mother, or my aunt, or my uncle, or anyone. I have always wondered. I observed my grandmother as a pillar of strength and words and opinion. A strong woman, widowed, with a tragic story. I wondered what it could possibly be like to lose your child. To have your child stolen away in a fast flash of metal. To watch your child die, not able to save her. As a parent, that is the greatest fear. Forever-goneness.

Unbelievably, this week I learned that a long-time friend witnessed the death of his sister when he was a child. She was run over by a car, and he saw everything. I had no idea. And since my initial shock, I've been sitting with this, sitting with the child inside my friend. It's heavy. My friend, in his forties, still feeds dragons. Still chases ghosts. Forever-gone, but not gone. He chooses to bear the weight, he would not give it up. The weight is part of his joy and his identity. Remembering. She is not gone. Forever-with.

I had never considered the child witness. Did my uncle, the second-oldest, witness his sister's death? What about my mother? Three living children, and three gone. What do they remember? What ghosts might my mother still chase? Does she feed dragons? How about my aunt, the youngest, born years later? I've been hugging my kids extra-tight this week. Gazing at them extra-long, watching them together. Playing, laughing. Loving. Happy. What you want for children.

A poem by my grandmother, for those who feed dragons in the night:

     Star, bright star, above my tallest tree
     Telling me calmly that my work is done,
     Telling me peacefully to sit and watch the night,--
     Tell me, what will there be when day is done?

     Wind, cool wind, that through my tallest tree,
     Breathing the sweetness of a summer night,
     Breathing away the cares of a long, toilsome day,--
     Tell me--will there be soon an end of night?

24 comments:

  1. Marian, I would never have dreamed that the vibrant, joyful woman who remains my favorite teacher of all time, had known such pain in her early life. You all are strong stock!

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    1. aww. harriedmom, we must be strong, right? one of my favorite teachers, too :)
      thank you for coming to read and for commenting.

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  2. An ideal share, today, Marian. Thank you.

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  3. I've been sitting here for 20 full minutes trying to put together what I want to say, and none of it is coming out right. This piece IS, sadly, timely. It is also time-LESS; and a good and necessary piece to think on and learn from. Forever-goneness, forever-with...beautiful words.

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  4. Marian...tears...this and you...so heartfelt...thank you for opening your heart to us. ♥

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  5. Very touching... too much heartache for your grandmother...

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  6. well since I have been crying all weekend, I guess I should continue.
    I loved her words and yours. I love knowing that you have the words for us when we can't find them, love knowing that you can talk for my heart.

    this was beautiful in every way.

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  7. It is always astounding to me, the amount of pain so many humans carry, that we manage to stay strong, carry on, keep a sense of humor, still find joy and peace and contentment. I would have loved your grandma, Marian. I sure loved mine. Their lives were hard, very hard. But what women they were! I loved reading this today.

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  8. and today again we must embrace the child witnesses. again.

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  9. This remains as powerful a read as at the first time it was posted... Thank you.

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  10. Marian, will I be able to sleep tonight with thoughts of child witnesses in my mind. All I know is life is sometimes unbearably difficult to endure.

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  11. that's a very moving and agonizing piece.tragedies are hardest on such survivors.we can only wish them peace.

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  12. I have a photo of my grandfather as a baby, with his parents, his two sisters, and all their brothers. One of his sisters died in her teens, and I look at her picture, with her long blond hair, and wonder...wonder how my great-grandparents had the strength to carry on after her death, and then I remember. Death was more familiar to their generation than to mine. Death lived in their homes, in their hearts, and in their daily lives, not on television, on the internet, in newspapers.
    I love your grandmother's poem, Marian, and I'm glad it makes you hug your children more often. Those hugs are her legacy to your children.
    K

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    1. it is true, death was more familiar. and so was keeping it inside, not talking about it.

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  13. Speechless, I place my fingers on the screen in affection...

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  14. feeling an inner teary weariness today, this released them... sorrow falls as it may, night or day.

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  15. Marian,
    I am touched and moved by this post! Your grandmother's spirit and poem~
    I saw someone die, when I was sixteen and it haunts me. Two year later I saw
    my Dad die, two months later my grandfather...
    Death seeps in our soul and never leaves. It makes us see the world differently, appreciate
    time more....
    I am so sorry for what your family has endured!
    (((hugs)))

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    1. oh Ella, hugs right back to you. it is amazing what people are able to endure. what children endure, who then carry burdens into adulthood.

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  16. thank you, everyone, for reading this piece and responding.
    if anything good has come of recent horrific events, it is true and real reflection and focus on children. much love to all of you.

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