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Friday, December 02, 2011

An even smaller world

The World of Free Fantasy Art Pictures - Amsterdam The Netherlands
It happens, sometimes, when I'm meeting someone for the first time and they ask, "How many children do you have?"

"Six," I say, and then something catches me in the back of my throat and this little dialogue begins to click off in my head. "Maybe I should have said, 'five' because if s/he asks me about my kids, I'll have to say that one has died and I don't want to talk about that. Not now. Not here".

"But, I have six - I just lost one," the silent dialogue continues quite loudly. "Why didn't s/he ask, 'How many children have you HAD?' and then I could say, 'six' and not have to explain. But, no one asks, 'How many children have you HAD?' - that's just crazy - so just let it be 'question asked and answered' and move the conversation along by smiling and asking, 'And you?'.

Or, change the subject completely by asking something like, "Think the rain will hurt the rhubarb?"

Which is what I have learned to do, and it works pretty well most of the time, except for the ache that lingers in my throat and eventually makes its way down into my heart.

Sometimes, it happens when I'm looking through a cookbook for a recipe and I shift the book onto my lap and some of the notes fall out and there's one for chicken soup with her hand writing and notes all over it - ("I always use much more garlic than this. I am my mother's daughter") and I feel that catch at the back of my throat again and for a few seconds I can't breathe.

Just the other day, I was in the grocery store, and I saw two young girls giggling over something on the shelf and one said to the other, "That's just crazy," and they collapsed into giggles and one started singing Patsy Cline's "Crazy" and I remembered that was one of her favorite songs by one of her favorite artists (that, and "Walking After Midnight" which she loved to do) and my throat closed and I closed my hands in a tight grip on the handle of my shopping cart and move forward and tried to smile as I passed the giggling girls in the shopping aisle.  

Then, just this morning, after my prayers and "morning ablutions" and while I was sipping my coffee, I read the Story of the Day by StoryPeople.
I know he's not really gone,
she said, but the world still
feels smaller to me today.
I sat there for a few seconds and looked at the words on my laptop, waiting for the return of my old friend, the tightening at the back of my throat, and smiled, this time, the way one does when an old friend makes an appearance. And, I smiled because of the dependability and predictability and the familiarity were oddly comforting.

The world is a smaller place since the death of my firstborn, and yet she is always present. Sometimes I try to pretend that isn't so, but I know it's just because sometimes I'm more aware than at other times.

Sometimes, she tugs at my heart (or the back of my throat) like she used to tug at the tail end of my shirt or the back of my jeans when she was a small child, demanding attention be paid to the worm she had in her hand, or a thought she had in her head, or the "God rock" she had picked up in the yard and put in her pocket.

Seven years later, my old friend, Grief, is not exactly a constant companion but no longer The Unwanted Guest.  I've come to understand Grief as someone I have to live with who will make occasional, unexpected and unannounced appearances to remind me that it is only because life it good that it hurts to lose it.

If life were not good, there would be no need of Grief to catch the back of your throat and tangle the strings of your heart in the empty places left by death.

So, in that way, Grief is good.  A reminder of the goodness and preciousness and fragility of life.

I won't lie: I wish she were still here. With me. With us. Being her passionate, quick-tempered, generous, compassionate, intelligent, maddening, crazy-walking-after-midnight-in-the-rain self.

She is.  I know she is. Here. Well, her spirit is. And, since I believe with all my heart and soul in the communion of saints, I know that, not only is she still with us, but that I will see her again, one day, on the beautiful shore in that Sweet Bye and Bye.

I know that to be true in my head and in my heart - as well as in the back of my throat.

It's just that, right now, the world is an even smaller place without her.


Ann said...

Yeah. I looked at that Story People and my brother (who died a year ago last Memorial Day) popped into view. A child - the 3rd rail for me -

klady said...


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ann - "Third rail". Good way to describe it. My continued condolences on the loss of your brother.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Klady. From one who knows of what I speak.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Hugs, m'dear.

susankay said...

And I thought of my late husband who died 15 1/2 years ago and my parents, and.., and...

Hugs and care for all who grieve

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kirke - Hugs appreciated

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hugs and care to you, Susankay

Caminante said...

Has it been seven years...
a jubilee time
but just yesterday
and an eternity
all at the same time.

Prayers on this day as you mark, remember, smile and weep from the memories of your dear first-born who is still very present, always present:

¡Presente! Sí.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you. It is a bittersweet Year of Jubilee.

it's margaret said...

We have a name for those who have lost parents --orphan --names for those who have lost a spouse --but no name for those who have lost a child... it's too unimaginable/awful to name.

Those words were an odd comfort to me in my own grief.

God bless you, Elizabeth.

June Butler said...

And me my sister. Still, there's something about losing a child....

Love and blessings to you, Elizabeth, and to all whose worlds are smaller.

JCF said...

No words, only prayers---

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Margaret, Thanks for that. Words do fail.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mimi - I pray for you as you continue to grieve your sister.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, JCF.

Anonymous said...

The world is smaller; but, heaven is bigger.

Prayers ascending for your daughter and comfort for you.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Maria. Your words are a great comfort to me.

IT said...

My dad died last February. First Christmas without him....still he lived to 4 score and 3, a goodly age, and his passing was in the manner of things. But we are not meant to bury our children; that disrupts the rhythm. Hugs.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You're right. I've lost my father and then my mother. This is different. As Ann says, it's the "third rail".