Archive for May, 2012

What I Learned from my Mother

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewing even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
~ Julia Kasdorf

My head is filling up again.

Last summer the to-do lists took over with tyranny. Every morning I sat up in bed and my brain powered on to reveal a never-ending to-do list or decisions to make or stuff to think about. But finally, we are slowly settling into our new home, finding our feet again, and I am not using the GPS as much anymore, my compass re-set.

I found a page in my journal of topics I would have liked to write about- on three different blogs. The ideas no longer seem fresh, the intense moment gone, but can be re-kindled. I still have things to say. Thank goodness. I guess that means I am still alive. I finally exhaled.

I read Julia Kasdorf’s poem and I wonder what my children learned from me. I know that since the summer of 2007 their biggest lessons could be: bad things happen. It is ok to cry. Mommy can be weak. Mommy can be so in pain she swears and rolls about on the floor. There are kind people always. Friends come and go, at least some of them.

I cannot teach you anything, that’s what I tell them. I can’t teach you, you will learn by yourself, because you want to. So I am not sure what they have picked up, and what they have internalized.

But I sure hope, that there will always be this softness and this grandness in their hearts, to reach out to the grieving with humble open palms, to abide with sorrow, to walk gently along. To live with an alertness and wide-open eyes, because we don’t know when. The moment is now.

But you know what? How I yearn to teach: to hold Ferdinand’s hand as he makes his first squiggly line, to hear his voice repeat my words, to point to a bird, flower, and leaf and say the name.

Ferdinand. I still miss. He fills my entire heart today.


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