When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

~ Kahlil Gibran, from"The Prophet"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

the traces of suffering

And then something happened. It's hard to believe, it's such a sad day. At around five I went down to Madame Michel's loge (I mean Renee's loge) with Kakuro because he wanted to get some of her clothes to take them to the hospital morgue. He rang at our door and asked Maman if he could speak to me. But I had guessed it would be him, I was already there. Of course I wanted to go with him. We took the elevator down, not speaking. He looked very tired, more tired than sad, and I thought, That is what suffering looks like on a wise face. It's not apparent; it just leaves traces that make you look very very tired. Do I look tired, too?

excerpt from "The Elegance of the Hedgehog"
- Muriel Barbery

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011


Death Barged In
by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno

In his Russian greatcoat
slamming open the door
with an unpardonable bang,
and he has been here ever since.

He changes everything,
rearranges the furniture,
his hand hovers
by the phone;
he will answer now, he says;
he will be the answer.

Tonight he sits down to dinner
at the head of the table
as we eat, mute;
later, he climbs into bed
between us.

Even as I sit here,
he stands behind me
clamping two
colossal hands on my shoulders
and bends down
and whispers to my neck, 
From now on, 
you write about me.

flagrancy, an atrocity
nothing vague - nothing subtle
can you feel it
distinctly tactile to some - obscure, vague to others

taste it, metallic
touch the blatant intrusion, the unwelcome invasion
make yourself comfortable
settle in to stay
how dare you enter this space
ignore it and it will leave... 
if only

control over every part of the routine of daily existence
insidious, street-smart
order, is there order left, any semblance
altered, taken, snatched from grasp
wandering in circles - in the house, in the woods, at bronswood
will it ever return
no, just longings for things that will never be

sinking under the weight - oppressive, stifling
feeling the breath
palpable, manifest
i'm freezing
the hairs on my nape disturbed... forever disturbed
i'm writing

I AM writing!

Friday, September 2, 2011

in a spirit of letting go...

When Erin was a senior in high school, I decided to take a part-time job. It was the fall of 2008, and as she began the new school year she was characteristically undaunted by the adjusted schedule that coordinated with her 5-day/every third week after school chemotherapy protocol, which included the fringe benefits of a monthly (pre-neulasta-boost) tanked white count and a bombed hemoglobin level pallor that even expert make-up application couldn't hide. Stop worrying mom! Yes dear.

So, to give myself a semblance of outward focus, I accepted a job that was ten minutes away. Rather than staring at the clock all day until it was time to pick her up and take her to chemo/for a transfusion/home, with my mind spinning all the potential scenarios of allowing her to leave the house-bubble of safety, I steeled myself and released her into the germ-infested halls of the school, where she drank from the water fountains where students spit gum and I still don't even want to think about what else, and where she limped up and down three flights of steps in the damn flip flops she insisted on wearing, adamantly refusing an elevator pass.
(She never got sick and she never fell on those stairs.)
let her go...

My place of employment was owned and operated by the Congregation of St Joseph, the Sisters of the Catholic order that taught at many of our local schools. You can read about their business HERE at Ministry of the Arts if you're so inclined. The Sisters compose music, write poetry and prayers, draw and paint... The products are beautiful, and they're sold in the gift shop on the premises, through a mail-order catalog and via the internet.

I found this card one day as I was familiarizing myself with some of the products. The verbiage, so appropriate, stopped me in my tracks.  I felt as though it had been written just for me.

Blessing - Pat Bergen, CSJ
Art - Mary Southard, CSJ

I bought the card, took it home, kept it with me and read it constantly, pleading with God to "bless this woman".  Bless ME!  Oh God, I beg you to bless exhausted, terrified, pitiful me. Help me know what to do. She's not leaving me today. Not yet. But she's eventually going to.  I know that.  Help me to know what to do.  How to do the unthinkable. Help me to let go of her.  That's ridiculous!  How can I possibly let go of my daughter?  "Breathe new life in her".  Get me through the day.  Or more challenging, get me through the darkness of night after night after night.  Oh God, those nights.  Help me breathe, Period!

I did let go. I had to.  I rested for a while after because I took comfort in the overwhelming relief that she'd finally been graced with well-deserved peace.  The suffering was over.  I was carried by the adrenaline rush of gratitude for that peace.

I'd finally packed the card away among others received from thoughtful people over time - three years of struggle and then death and then the after.  So many extraordinary cards.  Boxes of them.  Scores of handwritten notes from adults, teens and children.  Treasures I'll keep forever.

While recently rummaging through one of the boxes in search of something else, I unearthed it. I'm thankful, for I find myself in need of its messages again.

Strong emotions in the here and now are causing me to feel tipped in many directions ~ the wedding, the deaths of other children we met along the cancer road, the beginning of a new school year coupled with the many  if only  scenarios and the accompanying deep sadness playing in my head about what Erin should be doing now... "be with her now as she opens her hands", a variety of potential job situations and some resulting uncertainty about what I really want, what's truly best while putting the pieces of a new life together... "whispers of new voices and new learnings".  Who am I now?

It's so complicated. I still can't let go.  I don't want to let go.
My gratitude for her peace has waned, or rather, it's countered by frustration over what I can't have.  Everything blew up.
I want my old life back.

in a spirit of letting go...
don't i get to keep something?
there are so many times when the "cherished memories" simply aren't enough to fight off the chill of grief that courses through my veins, yet those same memories are what drive me forward on certain days
again, so complicated

to what do i cling when i enter the gates...

PS - please take a moment and visit Robin's blog here to read the Suscipe and her accompanying words of wisdom. Robin's beloved son died by suicide three years ago.

It's SO not easy.