We had a storm here this week. Here’s some shots we took during and after. The Yellow House stands untouched despite the proximity. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the devastation.
By November 1st even the birches in the front yard had lost all their leaves and the world outside my window appeared to be dead. I watched a small flock of robins perched in another tree, a species of wild cherry. They were picking off fruit, fueling up for the flight south. “You’re late,” I thought, “better hurry or you’ll freeze.”
What did our early ancestors think the first time they observed the onset of winter, the apparent death of the world? When did they realize it was part of a cycle of loss and renewal?
Death, which still seems the ultimate loss, was much on my mind that day. We were getting ready to sing a trio of songs about it for a chapel service commemorating the day of the dead. Oliver had prepared a short speech to describe the songs. The first “Absalom, My Son” was about the tragedy of early death; the second “Thou Knowest Lord the Secrets of Our Hearts” was a meditation on the fear of death; and the third “Never Weather Beaten Sail” was about death as a welcome event when a life has run its full course.
I was hoping my next blog post would be a little more cheerful than some of my more recent ones. Due to my complete inability to leave my office long enough to go to the grocery store, we recently suffered through a whole week of drinking Maxwell House coffee, the only brand at a nearby convenience store. I had some amusing thoughts about that, coffee snob that I am. But recently I’ve had news of three deaths and I’m bewildered by the piling up of loss upon loss.
Strictly speaking the passing of these three people is not my loss. The first was the son of a couple I once knew quite well but with whom I have fallen out of touch. I never met the son but I feel sorrow for my friends, especially in circumstances as tragic as these were.
The other two deaths are closer to home and yet it seems a little presumptuous to claim them as my loss. My ex-husband called a little over a week ago to tell me that his mother had died suddenly, heart failure. She was a good woman. My principal memory of her is she loved a good laugh. I remember long evenings at her dinner table with much good food and laughter.
I was sad to hear the news, sad for my ex to have lost her. We have had a long association and have remained friends. Throughout our marriage and divorce, his family treated me with love and kindness. My former father-in-law, Bob, was also much in my mind. He and Pat were childhood friends and had been together all their lives.
Then yesterday morning my ex called again with the news that Bob had died. He didn’t give me any more information than that but I wonder if the cause was a broken heart.
The passing of Pat and Bob doesn’t fit any of the songs we sang at that service. They were not young, except at heart where it really counts. Neither of them were fearful people and they were yet too young for their death to be a comfort to them or to anyone who loves them. I will mourn them whether I have a right to it or not.
It has been almost a month since I let my dog “go gentle into that good night.” Getting over it has been harder than I imagined; she was such a big part of my daily life. But bit by bit I am getting to the point where I do not expect to find her waiting for me when I come home.
I read the poem below on the Poetry Daily site years ago. It has consoled me these last days with images so closely resembling my memories of Cammy.
Towards a Theology Based on Labrador Retrievers
by Tina Kelley
I am arguing in the affirmative: that the Creator moves among us today
in Brooklyn, in the form of a black dog named Addie. Her benevolence is deeper
than the farthest foxhole, her gentleness thick as husky fur. Were she human,
she would sort and fold strangers’ clothing at the laundromat. Were she only a dog,
she would not fetch without being asked. There is abundance in her, like the butterfly
laying its eggs midair. Bountiful and democratic is her spirit: she licks my hand
like a spa treatment, she sleeps, calm back flat by my flank, breathing like a separate sea.
She dreams of the squirrel’s flicking, scolding tail, its visible neener neener neener.
Her vengeance is quick and awful. Yet love of fellowship runs in her blood,
her song like the bird’s that is only heard among other birds. She has taught me
the help given to the soul by the mile-wide lawn dotted with trees, by the tossed scrap.
I believe in her greetings, in the wide-maple way she roams from one scent to another.
Bury me in this part of the park where the dogs run without leashes, mix my ashes
with hers. Shield us in our joy, o protector, o collar. Let her true heart be contagious.
Copyright Tina Kelley
Reprinted with permission