Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The Plural of Grief
Driving after an overnight ice storm the morning sun
crested hills, glancing trees just so: There illumined, a
staggering array of diamonds or earth-bound starlight,
an ice-glazed land without explanation or want of one.
I would have painted or photographed that scene, and
believe still that the light itself would have defied such
capture. I am left to mere words. They are inadequate
but all we have, discomfited as we are by silence.
I look to words to describe that November’s sainted frost,
the drenching humidity of a mid-Atlantic August,
how what seems so simple to others befuddles me,
how I excel at what seems impossible to others,
and why at the age of three my youngest daughter,
Emma, painted her October pumpkins pink and placed
one in her bedroom window, one in her closet,
and closed the door. “It’s my guardian pumpkin,” she said.
One must look to words to describe the fundamental
incompatibility of hope and life, the substance and
calculus that conspire to strip away our defense,
compel us to scream “why” at a God that suggests,
in return, it is not our question to ask. (Admit, finally,
that the word “because” does not answer anything.)
You must tap your deepest self time and time again to
overcome the raging arc of life, the aches and yearnings, the
fallibilities and the grief, the anguish of a loved one borne
away by cancers, lost minds, lost hearts, lost loves, loss.
It takes courage and more to survive these things,
and I have, but I am singularly uncourageous and lack the
simplest of skills to accomplish anything but to endure.
I am a conscript of the peculiar faith that suggests God
will impose nothing that we cannot survive. But he will
do his damndest to find our particular tolerances.
-Martin A. Bartels (draft version)