So you carry on

January 1, 2014 § 4 Comments

When your father dies out of the blue, in the darkness of a cold barn during a late-April ice storm – when he is found in the hay meant for the cow and calf, and when no one can say for sure what even happened – then you might curl into what remains of your family and stop reaching out in trust toward the world. (It was a hesitant trust to begin with.)

You might go in secret to the desperate places of grief. You might stop writing the happy stories of life for fear of the ultimate sadness that must come along and scribble itself into them. You might decide to not have feelings at all and give it a real go (you might fail). You might ask a million questions to and of and about God, and when that does nothing you might stop talking to Him completely — unless someone else can offer you their words to use instead. You might turn to liturgies and the prayers of saints and hope that’s enough.

Sometimes you might be so angry you are seconds away from throwing a tantrum, full-fledged arms and legs kicking, like any competent two-year-old.

You might create some kind of strong outer self that still acknowledges what is worth being grateful for, that greets and welcomes people, that manages to laugh out loud and love much of what happens all around. You won’t understand how this outer self goes along with the unsightly mess that is inside, but it doesn’t seem entirely fake, and you decide to go with it because, after all, what is the alternative?

The days keep happening, as they must. Emptier than they should be. More things ache in different ways. But as the months spread themselves out you might, more than once, come across something that makes you pause, that makes your chest swell in that old real wonderful-world way, that tricks a smile into place and stirs the idealist you can’t completely tamp down. A meteor shower in the middle of summer, while you lie on a tarp spread over the wet grass. Lively delicious dinners with friends (even if it takes jump-starting two trucks to get there). A jog through the woods and a chat on a footbridge. A plot of purple carrots and children who practically hop up-and-down in the discovery of them. Fires snapping and glowing. A beautiful painting, unexpected. Riding a chestnut horse in the hour before dusk.  A hidden swamp for you and the dog and decent muck boots. Babies and giggles and dimples and freckles. Little gifts handmade and hand-selected, surprises that say, gently, you matter to me.

So you carry on. Nothing will be the same, of course. You will have to cling to the memory of the sound of your father’s voice, the crinkles around his eyes when he smiled, the knowledge that the nose you are not-so-thrilled to have inherited came, actually, from him, along with your long legs and your need to be close to the dirt oftener than not. You will have to imagine rather than see him walking through the pasture with you and when you have a question about livestock or trucks or gardens you will not have his answer, unless you can find it in one of his books. Your family will seem small and split and only heaven will make it completely right again after a very long time. But you can feel the prodding of whatever good has shot through this broken world, the good that wants you to fight for it and be a part of it and hold it and increase it.

And you might reach out.

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