A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog about language and loss. It was inspired by a conversation I have been having with Christina Sanantonio, a writer and blogger living in Central Illinois. She wrote about how difficult it was to talk about loss. Many of the things she said hit home with me, but one of the things was especially important. She said, "We ache for a language that doesn't exist."
Just a few days ago, I received an email from Wanda with her thoughts on memory, language, writing, and loss. Her letter continues the discussion Christina and I and the people who have written comments on my earlier post have been having. Wanda has an insight and clarity that has me thinking again about language and loss.
Here's her letter:
I remember something I read in Out of the Silent Planet by C.S Lewis when I was about 16. It was about how events remain incomplete until we remember them. It is our memory which draws the essential truth from an event, and the telling of it closes a circle. Other circles may be born from the event as we recall different aspects of it, as we grow older and gain more perspective, but as soon as we tell it -- whether speaking, writing, or merely naming it in our own minds -- it closes a circle. It becomes complete. And separate unto itself. Another loss.
Feeling the pain of loss is a silver thread which continues to unite us with the loved one who has died, so there's often a subconscious, or even conscious, reluctance to actively do things which would alleviate the pain. Even though we know it might "be better" to talk about the loss, to write about it, paint it, whatever, I think we also know deep down that once we do so and let some of the pain move out from us, borne by the flow of expression and received in witness by another, that something in us will be subtly and irreparably different. Even if we come out "better" for it, we still mourn the way we were mourning because in that way we had a certain connection with our loved one. Now, that connection is different. Stepping into the "now," we have to step off the shore of the "then." It's a bittersweet thing.
As my aunt and my father were dying between November and March this year, I - like you - kept note of everything I could. I even got my dad to draw or write something in a small sketchbook every day that he could. He’d draw his house in Poland, the storks, faces, chickens, and flowers. Day by day they changed a bit, and when the drawings deteriorated along with his presence, they became such mournful treasures. My aunt shared her dreams with me until one day, about three days before she died, she just said "There is so much I have that I'd like to share with you, but I'm not going to because if I do, I won't have it anymore." With both my aunt and my father, our manner of communication changed -- somehow more intimate while the space between our worlds grew ever larger.
One of the things which kept me going was knowing that I would write and paint about their dying. I've often wanted to share the poems and the painting, but I find it strange that I don't seem to be able to. Not even my siblings have read them. Still, I know that certain lines and poems of yours have resonated to the core with me...painful, but helpful. And some of Martin Stepek's are the same...I cry each time I read them, but it's good to read them. So it's by some kind of grace that our pain can move out from within us on waves of words, ripple out to spark healing in others. And the old wisdom of ancient healers has always said that what you put out into the world shall return sevenfold to you.
Is the healing in movement? in sharing? in knowing? Holding only helps for a while...the universe is movement, and as we are part of that I would have to say that movement is important for life and healing and yes for the dying too.
The poems about your mom's dying will come when it's time. But even when you write about not being able to write them, it means a lot to those of us who read that.