I labored over a post about this, about this dark anniversary, about how this year has changed me, about how I still cry. But the words were confused, the sentences messy, the paragraphs long, the ideas incoherent, and it occurred to me that I do not need to struggle to put everything into words. That not everything can be captured in words.
It is, of course, our greatest fear. It is the bogeyman in our closet, the monster under our bed. It is the shadow that lurks behind every tree in the wood, it is the crackle of every twig, it is the sudden silencing of birds, the darkening of the sky, the unexpected chill in the air, the thing that stops our breathing, that quickens the beat of our hearts. And we cannot tell ourselves that it isn’t there, that it is just the stuff of fairy tales and scary stories; we cannot shine the flashlight into the closet or under the bed or out toward the trees and reassure ourselves, because it is out there, it is, maybe just as a possibility, maybe just as the faintest possibility, but that possibility is what gives it air to breath and matter to take form.
We could lose our children. Some harm could come to them. They could be erased from the landscape of our lives and our hearts could, would, break, shatter into a million, billion, trillion pieces and we would never recover, not really.
This – the post below – is something that I wrote a few years ago, when I was still in the first joyous and anxious flush of new motherhood. It’s one of my very favourite posts, although one that has gotten buried in the sands of WordPress, and time. It’s also a post that I’ve been thinking about a lot, not least because of my sister’s ongoing struggle with the prospect of saying goodbye to her son (a struggle that extends to all of us), but also because of my father’s passing, and my keen awareness, in the long process of letting him go, of how difficult he found it to let me and my sister (and, in a completely different context, my mother) go, of how difficult he found it to let anything go. And then, last night, I saw a film (about which I will write more at length, once I can do so without crying) that touched all these nerves, and more, and reminded me that what I thought was a unique experience of motherhood is, in fact, an experience of parenthood, one that fathers share no less for being fathers. And that, perhaps, it is an experience of love generally – of the necessity of giving love air to breathe, of the inextricability of loss from love, of the impossibility of holding on to those we love too tightly – of the undesirability of holding on too tightly – of the inevitability of goodbye. So I am revisiting it here. I am not sure, yet, what I have learned from revisiting it. Other than, maybe, that I need to meditate more upon the cruelty and beauty and necessity of letting go.
One of the most difficult things about pregnancy, for me, was that it forced me to confront myself as a biological creature. It forced me to experience myself as a body, as a being put entirely into the service of nature. My every wakeful – and not so wakeful – moment was spent in a state of hyper-consciousness about my physicality: I was nurturing a life, and that life depended upon my physical being, and no force of intellect or imagination could alter or facilitate or intercede in that dependency. And as a person who had spent all of her conscious years in her head – and someone who was well-trained in a school of philosophical thought that emphasizes the absolute primacy of mind over body, reason over appetite and base sense – this was very, very hard for me.
So I was anxious – anxious beyond measure – about birth and new motherhood, which I perceived as a broadening and deepening of this experience. I didn’t fear it, exactly: I wanted the experience. Every fibre of my physical being strained toward this experience, and demanded that my mind follow – this, in itself, was disconcerting. The thing of it was, rather, that I doubted my ability to stay the course: how would I ever, ever find my way through this dense thicket, this overwhelming jungle, without maps, without books, without the compass of my intellect? How would I survive, if I had only the thrum of my senses to guide me?
Emilia wants to know what happens when we die. She asks a few times a week, on average, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on whether or not we’ve spoken about my dad or about Tanner or about dinosaurs. Today, she asked because they’d been talking about the Easter story at school. She wanted to know why Jesus got to fly up into the sky, and Grandpa didn’t.
You burned him, didn’t you? she asks. How could he fly after that?
Explaining death is one thing. Explaining the cremation, the afterlife and Divine resurrection are something else entirely.
Alexander McQueen died this week. He committed suicide, and he did so, in part, it seems, because of his bereavement over the death of his mother earlier this month.
This is going to sound awful, terrible, extreme, insane… but… I think that I know – maybe, a little bit – how he felt.