Four years ago this Wednesday, April 1st, Dad called my cell phone at 11:40 AM to let me know that A3's headaches had finally been diagnosed. I was standing in front of the Edison Wathall Hotel in downtown Jackson, wearing a teal springtime dress. It's the first time I remember the world falling out from underneath me. He fought so hard and never gave up. I never gave up. I truly never believed it was the beginning of his end on this earth.
We recently visited the Boy's headstone.
It's an odd, smoldering grief. A good friend who works with Hospice told me that it will take at least three years to get over it, and I believe that now. I still dream about him, and I pray that I always will. I cling to and cherish reminders of him: a flower he made me, a plastic dog he put on top of my birthday cake, turtle pillowcases he picked out for me, the whistle of a train, a cardinal outside.
There are so many facets of this sadness, so many regrets on my part. To have been there more for the family, to have realized what was really going on. To have known him better, to watch him grow up, to attend his wedding, to be there for him through anything.
But I can't imagine what his nuclear family must be going through. What they will carry with them always. I wish there was something to do, but nothing will ever replace him.
So I'll type the two pieces that have followed me. They both enter my head when life gets quiet; I'll say them with the rhythm of walks with Dante, the tumble of clothes in the dryer, the tick of a timer. And maybe, just maybe they'll help fill the gap until I get to see him again.
I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.
They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and His love made them strong;
and they followed the right for Jesus' sake
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there's not any reason, no not the least,
why I sholuldn't be one too.
They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundereds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in the church by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.
Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004)
Photo courtesy The Plant Directory.