Monday, February 7, 2011

The Sacred and The Profane

As I am hurled closer and closer to the two year anniversary of his death, I am learning things about myself. Things that are neither good nor bad but different than what they were before that day dawned. What I thought of the world and what I think of the world. One can not survive not one, but two, catastrophic life events and not be forever changed. The aftershocks continue long afterward and spill into every corner of ones life.

The first event was the suicide of my brother. It is a subject that I seldom broach but one that I suppose I should cover at some point. My brother and I were only siblings and the best of friends. In fact, our last Christmas, we actually bought each other identical clocks. We started a correspondence years before his passing with the understanding that when a letter was finished it was to be mailed with misspellings and all of the mistakes. An unedited conversation that went on for a long time. Those letters are sacred to me. When he left this world, I was as broken as I thought I would ever be in this life. I was cold inside and angry with God. Then God and I had a knock down, drag out, fist fight concerning the taking of him from me. A light bulb came on in my head. I came to the conclusion that I should be thankful for the 35 years I had with him rather than to count the 35 or so I will spend without him.

The changes around me were not as severe but they were a foreshadowing of things to come. I distanced myself from my family. I found their response to his death profane. It was hushed and silent as though it had never happened. As though he had never existed. Yet here I stood screaming in my heart. His belongings that were not in my possession were simply sold in yard sales or given to charities. Shirts were made into cleaning cloths with which he was wiped from the face of the earth it seemed. When he wrote his last letter, he burned every card and letter from me. Those ashes scattered across my hometown but the secrets of my heart were taken to the grave with him. 

The second catastrophic event is the one everyone knows about. But I am learning in grief. What is sacred to me are things that no one else would see. The sacred is who we were. What we did. The son we produced. The profane is the loss of him. The loss of his family to me and my son. The loss the future I had planned. As much as I have ever grieved Richard, I grieve my hopes and dreams. I grieve the pictures in my minds eye that will never see the exposure of real life. I grieve my belief in forever. It is profane to me that I cannot yet look at people and not think “Do you not even remember that he ever existed?”

The tears that I have shed since the first event have now bled into the tears from the second. I would love to say that the torrent has slowed but it has simply retreated into the darkness. I refuse to grieve in public. The people around me before have simply faded into the background noise that I now ignore. In trying to reenter this strange planet, widows walk a strange road. We never know what to say to make the other inhabitants feel comfortable. When I am asked “Are you single?” I should be able to answer “I am a widow” without the obligatory “It’s okay” to make them more at ease. When in a group conversation, I should be able to share my sacred memories with a light in my eyes rather than casting them to the floor as though I have said something profane to silence the entire room. The sacred is that I can remember now. The profane is that I am not allowed to forget. 

Today I wandered to a place of peace in a little grove of trees. I sat down on the bench and looked at the beautiful black granite and read his name through my tears for a while. Then a magic thing happened, I saw myself reflected there. The headstone did exactly what I wanted when I designed it. I wanted our son, his family and friends to look past the words of his death and to see themselves. We must remember that as profane it is how much of us as he took with him, that there is much of him left in us that is sacred.