Saturday, May 12, 2007

Love Triumphs Over Death

The Baron has been manfully holding down the fort these last few weeks, as I wandered into Limbo and then managed to find my way out again.

It is good to be back in the light.

This happens every May since my daughter died in 2003. I thought it would get easier as time eroded the edges of my grief. But this year was the worst, even though logically it should be easier. She finally has a headstone, and they attached a small vase for flowers. This time I was able to dig up some lily-of-the-valley from behind the large pine tree where it has grown since we first moved here. It was her favorite flower, so I packed soil around some of the roots of plants still in bloom and carried them to her. I put some freesia bulbs underneath the soil int the vase, hoping they will begin to emerge as the lilies die off.

I still haven’t figured out why the trip to Limbo was so dark and so long. In looking back on our posts, I can see mine trail off as we came into May. Life became a grey slow motion film...even as the Spring flowers began to take hold. The rhododendrons were lovely, but beauty was painful and to be avoided.

Grief is a mysterious process. It has all the ups and downs of a roller coaster, or a child learning to walk.

Shelagh in the mimosa treeI began seeing young women going about their daily lives - putting groceries in the car, standing in line at Starbucks waiting to order their lattes, walking in front of me talking on their cell phones. How can there be so many of these women with long brown hair, a confident stride, or a fleeting smile that resembles Shelagh’s? Each almost-encounter leaves me breathless for a moment; I sit on the nearest bench waiting for my solar plexus to recover from what feels like an existential fist. A merciless fist.

If you’ve ever read Michael Connelly’s police novels, you know how dark they are. His main character, a loner detective named Bosch, finds out he has a child, a young daughter, from a relationship of several years ago. Connelly’s descriptions of this man’s feelings are spare and telling. When someone asks him how it feels to be a father, he replies, "it is like someone holding a gun to your head." I know what he means: when you become a parent the world feels less safe; risks that were okay for you to encounter are definitely not all right for your child. Yes, indeed. Parenthood is a gun aimed right at your heart. The safety is off and the gun is cocked.
- - - - - - - - - -
So May 8th has come and gone for the fifth time now. The cemetery was as pretty as it was that first May 8th, when we arrived there to bury Shelagh. Long rolling swathes of green grass neatly trimmed, with dogwoods blooming at the edges of the woods, and copses of evergreens scattered through the cemetery. As we walked to her grave, I thought how fortunate it was we could not see the future. Decades ago, when the Baron was a landscape artist, he used to paint here. There is something timeless in mortality. And yes, I know that sentence is a contradiction, but so is death.

We, Shelagh’s faithful remnant, gathered by her burial place to talk about our memories of the funny, wicked person who was my daughter. Having forgotten to bring the Book of Common Prayer, devotions went unmentioned. Just as well... they have become a background hymn, played in a minor key, to the march of days that carry me further and further from the real, living, breathing and spirited girl who was my only daughter.

And then May 9th arrived as usual -- I never believe it will. The sun came up, the coffee was made and gratefully consumed, and I arose as though I had moved past a physical barrier and returned to the land of the living.

It is truly good to be back. The sword I dropped at the gates of Limbo was waiting for me on the other side when I returned. And meanwhile, the Baron kept Gates of Vienna standing athwart dhimmification as he has done these last few years.

That is why I call him Saint Baron. Every time I fall down that black well of unbearable grieving, he waits patiently for me to return. He hopes for me, he has faith that I will make it back. It is truly a wonderful and mysterious thing to be loved.

But I don't need to tell you what you already know: love triumphs over death every time.


Paul said...

Dymphna: Thank you for sharing thoughts and feelings from your time in the 'deep' this May. These are received as hopeful assurance that meaning and purpose is here for us still, no matter what troubles we may face in this world.

I am reminded of the passage of scripture, 'those who hope in the Lord will not be dissappointed.'

Cindi said...

I'm very sorry for your pain, Dymphna, and for the loss of your girl.


turn said...

"In the Great Bye and Bye..."

JustTra said...

I am so sorry that you have had to suffer this way. I too lost one of my precious children in 2003. The things that you have related in your post are all too familiar.

Everyone must grieve in their own way. The best I can do is tell you what I believe. God is sovereign. There is nothing in this world that gets past Him. He knew from the foundation of the world the illness that my son would have. He made a choice to let it happen. I may never know in this life all the ramifications of his life and death, but I know it was important. God knows what it is to watch a child die and He would not do that to anyone capriciously. My hope is in Christ and I trust that one day I will see my son again.

Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Mikael said...

I grieve with you Dymphna, I truely do.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and welcome back from the abyss. No doubt, some day you will be with Shelagh again. Take comfort in that thought.

Profitsbeard said...

"Hostages to Fate" are the dare we make in keeping this miracle going.

Nothing vanishes, it only transmutes.

Here's hoping the heart remains.

James Higham said...

I am posting on this later today, Dymphna, and will make my comments there.

Yorkshireminer said...

I am sorry for you luv,
the death of a loved one is always hard and we have all felt grief at sometime in our lives, burying your parents and brothers and sisters is hard enough you are burying your past, but burying your children into which you have invested so much hope and love must be very painful indeed, for you are burying your future.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing your feelings Dymphna. I have three children, I just couldn't imagine.....

Love is one of the things we fight for, You have that in abundance, God bless you Dymphna.

Beach Girl said...

You have our love, Dymphna. You have our love.

hank_F_M said...


As we stand in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection we can only pray that God will direct our way and take us home in the end. But the song goes on and you and Shelagh will meet again in a happier place.

Peace and Blessing

Anonymous said...

I was deeply moved by your thoughts, Dymphna. When my son died 6 years ago (11th May), these two poems gave me comfort. Perhaps they can help you too.

"I'll Lend You A Child" by Edgar Guest

"I'll lend you for a little time a child of mine," He said.
For you to love - while he lives
And mourn for when he's dead.
It may be six or seven years
Or twenty-two or three,
But will you, till I call him back,
Take care or him for Me?
He'll bring his smiles to gladden you,
And should this stay be brief
You'll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay,
Since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there
I want this child to learn.
I've looked this world over
In search for teachers true,
And from the throngs that crowd
Life's lanes, I have selected you.
Now will you give him all your love,
Nor count the labor vain,
Nor hate Me when I come to call to
Take him back again?"
I fancied that I heard then say,
"Dear Lord, Thy will be done,
For all the joy Thy child shall bring,
The risk of grief we'll run.
We'll shelter him with tenderness,
We'll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we've known
Forever grateful stay.
But should the angels call for him
Much sooner than we've planned,
We'll brave the bitter grief that come
And try to understand."


Unknown author
“God looked around his garden
and He found an empty place.
He then looked down upon this earth
and saw your tired face.

He put His arms around you
and lifted you to rest.
God’s garden must be beautiful;
He always takes the best.

He knew that you were suffering.
He knew that you were in pain.
He knew that you would never
get well on earth again.

He saw the road was getting rough
and the hills were hard to climb.
So He closed your weary eyelids
and whispered, ‘Peace Be Thine.’

It broke our hearts to lose you
but you didn’t go alone,
for part of us went with you
the day God called you home.”


Many thoughts from another mom who lost a child.

YoelB said...

Also written by someone who knew: Kipling's They and especially The Gardener

and for a lovely setting of Song of Songs 8:6-7

Frank said...

I miss you so much Emily. I have moments when I don't think about you and then the pain comes crushing back to fill the place you left empty. I remember the look you had last time I picked you up from school, an impatient half exasperated scowl which softened into a self-conscious smile when you saw me looking at you. I remember the ongoing battle we had over whose music we were going to listen to in the car. I remember the talks we had and the way you used to come up and hug me out of the blue. I remember your broken body in ICU and how I thought you had never seemed more beautiful. You were my little girl, my viking princess, my gift to the world. You were an intelligent funny beautiful woman, and you had it all. Your hockey bag is sitting in the van and your shoes in a bag in the trunk waiting to go to the Salvation Army, and I can't bring myself to take them because when I do I will be letting some more of you go, and I can't. Not yet. It seems like yesterday and it seems like years ago that I last heard your voice. They say that time heals, but it doesn't seem to be healing, and I hate time because it takes you further away from me. I suppose there must be some good that will come of this; they say things happen for a reason; and I suppose a day will come when the pain becomes duller, but its not today Em, its not today. Love you today and always.
- Dad

Kafir_Kelbeh said...

Daddy, I miss you. I remember the persistent twinkle in your eye, the lips pursed trying not to laugh at my seriousness, the crevices others called 'dimples'. I remember your ready wit, your strength, your unfailing loyalty to the other youngest child. I celebrated you making it to 70, as I worried for 30 years you wouldn't, never realizing you'd not make it to 71. This summer is full of celebrating for many, pain for me. Father's Day; July 4th, the day you left me last year; your birthday...this will the first time for me to try & endure through it all.

Mark, I miss you too. After Dad died last year, you acted as my surrogate rock when my husband couldn't be there for me. You were my sister's husband, but you were my brother. I can't believe you were shot only 4 months ago. I cannot say when they will find your killers, but I will remain strong & vigilant for you in working to bring them to justice. I hope you have somehow found peace, through it all.

(Dymphna - my heart goes out to you in your time of grief.)