Sunday, February 16, 2014

When No One Can Say The Right Words

When No One Can Say The Right Words 

When the body begins to die,
and no one can say the right words,

it is then that a poem may find the courage to
come forth and try to be with you.

So intimate is the experience of death,
in some ways even more so than birth.

All the work you have done for self and family
and maybe even the world,
whatever labor it was, it should be known -
it was really astounding.

And what you did just standing in an hour
against all time,

herculean your efforts, your every movement;
that is true.

You can rest now, dear. Rest.

The miraculous will not end.
Even sweeter, you will smile.

And if you wish, a cheek you cherished,
you will soon touch again.

        This poem is just so beautiful, whatever you were before you came into this world, will be offered (and was offered) before you leave it, and will continue to hang around for all of existence. It is so very true that no one can find the words to say when someone is dying or has died. The human conundrum is we can all "know" the pain, but we can't necessarily know each others' pain. It could be because we didn't know the person who passed, or it could be because even if we knew them quite well - is there ever a way to properly quantify love?
         I saved this poem especially for February 16th because that is the day my dog, Rufus, died in 2012. We read [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] and We Are Seven in his memory and decided to plant an apple tree.
        Shortly after I came across this blog post on Momastery about death (brought about by the death of their pet fish) and what it means to love, even though the ultimate conclusion of this life is loss of it: "When he [her son] asked me, "Why, mom? Why does God send us here, where things hurt so much? Why does He make us love things that He knows we’re just going to lose?" I told him that we don’t love people and animals because we will have them forever, we love them because loving them changes us, makes us better, healthier, kinder, real-er . . . stronger in the right ways and weaker in the right ways. Even if animals and people leave, even if they die - they leave us better. So we keep loving, even though we might lose, because loving teaches us, changes us. And that’s what we’re here to do."
        And then, because he was a Bichon Frise, we took comfort in some of Mary Oliver's poems about Percy. First read this poem, then I will tell you a story.

The First Time Percy Came Back

The first time Percy came back
he was not sailing on a cloud.
He was loping along the sand as though
he had come a great way.
"Percy," I cried out, and reached to him—
those white curls—
but he was unreachable. 
As music is present yet you can't touch it.
"Yes, it's all different," he said.
"You're going to be very surprised."
But I wasn't thinking of that.
 I only wanted to hold him. 
"Listen," he said,"I miss that too.
And now you'll be telling stories
of my coming back
and they won't be false, and they won't be true,
but they'll be real."
And then, as he used to, he said, "Let's go!"
And we walked down the beach together.

       After he died, I used to worry about Rufus from time to time. I worried if his death was painless. I worried if he knew the expression of love. I worried if he found himself in heaven. I worried if I would see him again. Until, about a year later, I had a dream. In it, Rufus had just died and I wondered and questioned where his soul was. The next few scenes of my dream consisted of Rufus lying on hospital beds of people who were dying. I saw the grieving faces of family members, I saw doctors giving hard news, I saw the brokenness and despair that surrounds death. These scenes were very vivid. And then, the moment they died, Rufus guided them to Heaven, I just saw him running beside them as they walked into this light. His eyes were bright, his demeanor cheerful, and the people seemed content to be chaperoned up the stairway and through the gates by an adorable ball of fluff. 
        I haven't worried about him since. I still miss him, but I don't worry. As Mary Oliver said, "And now you'll be telling stories of my coming back and they won't be false, and they won't be true, but they'll be real." Sometimes, "realness" is simply what speaks to your soul.

10/16/1999 - 2/16/2012

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