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I'm the Local Gal in Richmond, Indiana, exploring my hometown and heart. I write about all thing local, sometimes global. It's a small world after all.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

This Precious Life: Sunflowers & Moths

“Once you are real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.” 

~Margery Williams~ The Velveteen Rabbit

Gustav Klimt Sunflower
There aren't any words when someone dies. Words themselves, so useful in other situations seem suddenly clunky and empty next to grief or death. Meaning hangs in the air without a verbal net to catch it. It weighs the air down and takes your heart with it. Death has always made me uncomfortably speechless. I don't know what to do with social niceties or sympathy cards, although I'm sure there are well penned ones. Above all, I don't want to be the one who adds to the suffering. I don't want to say the wrong thing. Rather than choose imperfect words that could damage, I am silent and heartbroken. Which is worse?

I don't know what to do when the body of someone I love is displayed in a casket. The first and nearest death I experienced, was when my Old Opa was laid to rest. I built an imaginary wall between myself and the cold metal casket. I could not have been more than eight or nine. We stood in a line: his daughters, their daughters and their daughters. When I peeked in, the first thing I noticed was that his body was not his self. It was that moment that I realized the miracle and sheer fragility of life. I wandered away near a staircase and stared at the ground. Underneath the stair was the body of a white moth, its wings were folded. Since that moment I have associated death with moths. Animated, living moths versus the shell of what was a moth. There is no moth in a dead shell. If you reach for what was the moth, it crumbles. It is dry dust. Even though the animation has ceased, the moth was and is- not just the sum of its parts but its actions too, fluttering, striving, seeking light. The actions themselves have ceased, but they were real and they cannot be made unreal. Even without the moth, I can close my eyes and recall each motion. My Old Opa is gone but I can recall perfectly the way it felt to hold his hand. The way his old skin felt like soft thin paper, yet they were warm and strong. The way his eyes lit up when he quoted his sweet poetry to me.

Whenever I have cried over the loss of someone, I find myself crying most for the survivors. For after all, the dead are done. It's we the living who must keep on with life at its hardest. They say time heals all wounds, but the loss of someone is not exactly like a scar or even a rejection. It's an emptiness, a lack, a place that can't be filled perfectly. Time cannot exactly heal that. It doesn't hurt any less when death is expected, although it can be less jarring. Loss doesn't hurt anyone less if they have the maturity of years. I'm not convinced it hurts less tiny children who might seem unaware. Death has no regard for age and neither does grief, and you can go on missing someone for a hundred years, crying tears as fresh as the day you were born or the day they passed on.

Only privileged children believe adults are immune to life and death blows, and the moment you realize the equal plane of vulnerability on which we all stand, it's a moment you never forget. In my own experience, a very old man (he was in his nineties) confided in me just how much he missed his mother. You never know how missing someone or something will effect a person. Bereft sounds like what it means, and it's probably the most accurate verbal net for describing this feeling.

I miss certain people almost every day. The pain can surprise you like a reflex, like a sudden memory. When you love someone, it doesn't stop. It's a strangely comforting yearning, even if it makes you sad. There are so many things I would love to say or ask my people who have gone on. The hours spent together now seem so precious and few.

The only thing more surprising than death is how life keeps going after death and how you eventually laugh in spite of it. Unexpected joy springs even in the middle of grief. Always surprising and up like a banner of sunflowers over a thicket of thistles and thorns.

For everyone who is missing someone, words are inadequate, but you're not alone.

I wish that no matter how lonely or sad or distraught, that you find such a banner. No matter how your eyes brim with tears or your belly fills with undisclosed regrets, may you have memories and discoveries to smile over and to share. 

Comb My Hair by Hamed Saber

These flowers are for you: Photography Blogger's Beautiful Sunflowers

Read about the symbolic meaning of sunflowers here.


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