Cousins

Sometimes our cousin visits us. On these occasions the preschool activities become ever-so-much-more-so, like a Homer Price story.

Just imagine it – there is sliding down the bumpy slide, and rrrrr-ing dump trucks in the weedy grass, and occasionally sliding dump trucks down the slide.

The cats prowl warily around the edges of play and are grabbed when needed. You can put their tails in the dump truck. Or seize their furry heads in a sideways hug. The cats tolerate this baffling human behavior in hopes that it will soon lead to food.

In spite of three different language levels they understand each other pretty well.

Special guests deserve special food – pistachios and goldfish. Between the two boys, they eat them faster than I can shell them. We end the meal with a pile of pale shells and little flakes of purply skins scattered around their plates like confetti.

 

At one point there was a train track that went from one side of the dining room to another three times and underneath a chair. Helen crawled around removing bits of it here and there, and suddenly it was stepping stones.

The beads are really nice – for a while they were ‘noodles’ while they played kitchen, and then our cousin decided to wear them. Helen, not to be outdone, decided to do the same.

It is a privilege of toddlerhood that you can copy whatever you want. – Katie

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Poems 11

For the last day of April, National Poetry Month, there are two poems.They are opposite poems. Both are about death.

Each was given to me by a friend: one who sent an e. e. cummings poem in a text saying she had long thought of it as describing our family and Lucy, and another given indirectly by a friend who loaned me a library book by Joan Didion called “Blue Nights”. The W.H. Auden poem was included by Joan Didion in a story involving the differing reactions of herself and her daughter to the death of her husband.

 

1. i carry your heart with me by e. e. cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

 

2. Funeral Blues by W. H. Auden
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 crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
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 forever: 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.

Each poem struck a chord with me, but they almost describe two different paths. The Auden piece is so angry ( I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong) and despairing (for nothing now can ever come to any good) that you feel death has stolen life completely away. Not a shred of what you loved remains. The enormity of dismantling the sun, moon, and stars seems fitting to the depth of your loss.

When you walk through your home and the one you love is not sitting in their chair at the table, and not lying in their small bed as the sun rises, and not playing with cups in the bath, and not laughing as you dance with them, that absence is all you can feel sometimes. I thought to hold and care for her forever – I. was. wrong. The statement has both the slap of shock and the blackness of bereavement.

You find yourself standing in the middle of the hallway, holding whatever it is you find in your hand, wondering “What happened? Why is she gone? How on earth did I get to this place? How will I find my way out?”

People left to themselves can invent many clever ways to stop life right there: embalming their lives at the point of loss like Miss Havisham in the book Great Expectations. As if you refuse for life to go on. (I hurt so badly I will just stay here and focus on this pain at the expense of everything else.) The self-absorption is like a drug; it feels incredibly good but it will eventually kill you.

Alternatively –

The e. e. cummings poem (suffused with color from the odd punctuation he uses) touches on vast bodies just like the Auden one. The framework of Nature –  sun, moon, stars, and sky – is again a fitting description of how hugely you feel about the one who is gone. But in this one there is HOPE! I carry you in my heart – you are still here at the core of me – I am going on but not without you. Anywhere I go you go, my dear.

The light-filled contrast between the tiny spaces of mind and heart and the expanse of fate, world, sun, and moon is uplifting. You are not just a part of me but a part of the whole world. What I am and do will be larger and brighter because I have hidden you inside me. You are not lost. Neither of us has stopped entirely.

Cummings lets the joy of love, the hidden inner reality of someone precious to you beyond measure, shine enough to extinguish the bitterness of loss. I love that he emphasizes the smallness of our deepest feelings ( the root of the root and the bud of the bud, your heart in my heart), and the hugeness of what our lives encompass (sky of the sky, grows higher than soul can hope).

And, although the bitterness and anger of Auden’s poem (stop all the clocks) are easy for me to find, it is important to keep saying the truth (my life is hidden in Christ, Lucy is at home with Christ, someday we will be together again and even now we are one in Him). Eventually I will believe it.
Thanks, friends, for these poems. – Katie

“Courage, It is I!”

To conclude, let us turn to the divinity of Christ. It illumines, clarifies the whole of Christian life.
Without faith in the divinity of Christ:
God is remote,
Christ remains in his time,
The Gospel is one of many religious books of humanity,
The Church is a simple institution,
Evangelization is propaganda,
The liturgy is evocation of a past that is no longer,
Christian morality is a burden that is anything but light
and a yoke that is anything but gentle.

However, with faith in the divinity of Christ:
God is Emmanuel, God with us,
Christ is the Risen One who lives in the Spirit,
The Gospel is definitive word of God to the whole of humanity,
The Church is the universal sacrament [instrument] of salvation,
Evangelization is the sharing of a gift,
The liturgy is a joyful encounter with the Risen One,
Present life is the beginning of eternity.
Written, in fact, is that “He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).

— Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCAP, 1st Lenten Homily: St. Athanasius and Faith in the Divinity of Christ, delivered in the papal household March 9, 2012.

God is always good, and we are in his hands. +james

The Difference Between Boys and Girls

Robby: “Mom, do you know something about Superman?” He’s holding the Superman anthology we got him at Half Price Books, tattered red cardboard cover missing its dust jacket, black and white reproductions of the cartoons from the 1970s.

Me, driving the car: “No. What?”

Rob: “Well, there’s a girl named Lois Lane, and she, like, wants to marry Superman, but then Superman is, um, a guy named Clark Kent? And the regular guy, Clark Kent, he likes Lois Lane, but she doesn’t. Like him. She doesn’t want to marry him, she likes Superman.”

Me: “So she doesn’t know that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person?”

Rob, with emphasis: “NO.”

Me: “Does that seem dumb to you?”

Abbey, rolling her eyes: “Yes. She would know.”

Rob, indignantly: “No, it’s not dumb! That’s a superhero’s most important job, to protect his secret identity!” His tone implies that our female gender prevents us from sussing out the truth of this situation.

Me: “Well, I can see that’s an important job.”

Abbey, returning to her reading of The Annotated LITTLE WOMEN, murmuring: “Still dumb.” – Katie

 

Learning

Recently a kind friend asked me to join her for an activity. You probably have some friends like that, too: the kind who enliven your spirit and brighten your smile because they are just good company.  And I thought about friendship, and invitations, and finally came to a decision.

I feel like I have earned the right to honesty… many situations in life seem better suited to a polite response rather than an honest one, but now with death and life in my living room and my kitchen and my bedroom and my table, I need stark words. Solid, black-and-white words to fit my jagged-edged reality.
Right now it feels very hard to be around people. Sometimes it takes all I have to get ready to pick up the kids, knowing I’ll need to smile and greet so many folks at their school. Some days are better than others – some days are more smiles than tears. But I feel like I don’t fit in my own life right now. I’m trying to figure out how to be me and keep going as the Jarrett family without Lucy.

Being around people, even good friends, is often hard. More hard than I have energy to face. I’m functioning with a huge hole in me, and there are times when normal life – other people’s worries about their kid’s chicken nuggets and warts and messy rooms and band and too-small-shoes and tummy aches makes me think I will explode and scream rude things at them. I know everyone would forgive me because that is what friends do. But I’m not ready to start trying those normal life social events again.

James said a sweet thing to me recently when I told him (feeling horrified) that I said something crazy to a person at the kids’ school. He said, “They are learning to KNOW a person whose daughter has died, and you are learning to BE a person whose daughter has died. That takes work on both sides.”

Thank you, friend, for being a person who is learning to KNOW a person whose daughter has died.

In the car the other day I was pondering Rachel, weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. (Matthew 2:18). No one could bear that, I thought. No one could bear it if you really poured that anguish out in public and howled at the moon and raged at what has been taken from you and ripped your clothes and tore your hair. If you refused to be comforted.

It is a resentful and isolating facet of grief that you assume other people do not want to help you. They are tired of sadness, you think. They don’t want me to talk about it and make them uncomfortable. No one has suffered like me and I am alone, alone, alone…

And then thoughts sprang unbidden into my mind of a friend who suffered a miscarriage some time ago and I did not do a very good job of bearing with HER. I didn’t listen very well, I thought she carried on about it longer than she needed to, I didn’t call and keep up. I wasn’t a very good friend. But I am STILL her friend, and I don’t think she holds it against me.

It is remarkably difficult to bear other people’s burdens. Maybe we have to learn how. Pain and suffering are all around us, but it takes some personal experience to know how to sit down, be quiet, and share the darkness and silence with someone else.

The thought: I am alone, alone, alone… is the Devil’s lie.

Jesus suffered alone, going outside the gate, so that I could be never left nor forsaken. Jesus cried out “ My God…why have you forsaken me?”, so that lo, I have Him with me always. Jesus was the Lamb of God (so beautiful when we say it in Latin sometimes-

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi

Lamb of God, who bears away the sins of the world)

and the Good Shepherd, so that I should not want.

And here is another truth, another black-and-white reality: sometimes the words of friends, and the faces of friends, are the words and face of Jesus in your life. I keep trying, struggling to manage the howling and raging and tearing. Each day a new chance to call upon the name of the Lord and fight back the refusal to be comforted. And you keep trying, too, asking how I am and meaning it, recognizing that every day is hard, praying grace over what neither of us can control.

Thanks for learning to know a person whose daughter has died.

Bearing with me. – Katie

Water

This morning Helen and I went outside to water the plants in the backyard. Most of them are growing really well. We’ve had rain at least once a week for a while, but now it was time to water.

Helen loves to water. Some of the other children were fussy about getting wet at this age, wanting their clothes changed if it happened, but Helen deliberately picks up the soaker hose and holds it close to her body.

And shakes it up and down.

Sometimes she pats her wet clothes as if to say, how did that happen? – Katie

 

New Hair

When I arrived at school today to pick up Corrie, she was sitting on the circle drive steps with her long hair waving in the wind. And in her face. And over her eyes.

Here I should say that few things bother me as much as hair in a child’s eyes. I announced on the way home that we were cutting her hair today.

“What!! NO!! I’m growning it out to look like Rapunzel, remember?”

Oh, yes, I’d forgotten.

Me: “Sweetie, let’s just cut it to the level of your grown-out bangs so it’s all the same, and then you can grow and grow it all summer long! It will be great!”

Corrie, sobbing passionately: “I hate bangs! Why do you want to cut them? Don’t you want me to have long hair?”

Me: “Sweetie, I would like for you to be able to see. Your hair seems to be always in your eyes.”

Corrie, shaking tears all over the car as she shakes her head,: “No! No, I put a headband in in the morning, remember?”

Let us draw a veil over the remainder of the drive. Suffice it to say there were plenteous wails and vigorous gnashing of teeth.

And then we got home and I cut it and she loves it. After she’d showered to get off all the little tickly bits of hair, she put on her jammies and pranced across the floor of her bedroom.

She insisted on a side view photo as well.

Corrie: “I love this hair! Just wait until I’m a teenager, and I’ll have this hair and shorts and a phone!”

Oh, joy. I can’t wait. – Katie