I received an email from a sweet family friend C, who excitedly told me that she had found the perfect photo frame wherein she wanted to display photos of my family. She had already fitted in the photo-card we sent out for Chinese New Year this year, and she wanted to use the one from 2009 as well. There are two more slots. And she requested a photo of our entire family, “with mom and dad included,” and finally, she would love to have one of Ferdinand.
I almost wept. In my heart I just repeated Thank you thank you thank you! Thank you for remembering little Ferdinand!
But at the same time a seed of dread was beginning to sprout in my heart. And rapidly its tendrils grew and entwined and gripped and strangled.
I descended into our digital photo archives and scrolled to the dreaded year, then the awful month, and then the most unforgettable, horrible day(s) of our lives. Life spun backwards, screeching at high speed while I clicked and scrolled, my eyes darting here and there, trying not to see the pain and agony, futilely fending off the sad memories, balling up and trying to roll away from the hurt and shock. But I not only saw those images again. I felt them viscerally. It was like digging into my own raw flesh with nails encrusted with raw, diamond-edged salt.
I found the picture, the touched up one. I sent it off.
But not the memories, not the pain, not the grief. Those stayed. And I sobbed.
How funny that I recently again came across W.H. Auden’s poem, “Funeral Blues.” I could never write like that, but I know I wished like that after Ferdinand died. I wanted the world to crumble, for the sky to fall and for laughter to be wiped out forever. Eternal darkness, and floods of tears to never subside.
Some days life feels like the crisp, clear, cheery morning after an evening of raging storm. Raindrops quiver on leaves, birds tweet and butterflies flit.
People like to keep pointing to the rainbow that manifests after a storm. I like to remind them that it came after an ugly, formidable storm. I appreciate and cherish the rainbow, I just never forgot the storm.
“Funeral Blues” (Song IX/ from “Two Songs for Hedli Anderson)
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
~ Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973)