Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Sons and brothers

Again, I find myself falling impossibly short of understanding.
I am dulled once more by the deaths of sons. (4th March post.)

Grief feels as though it would fill us with something; but what?
When we are at a distance (geographically) from the person who dies, it is from the initial shock at receiving the news; when we are present with them, it is from the moment when the reality of their life having ended hits us. Even in situations where death is expected, and may have been so for a long time, those first moments bring an awareness, a realization, a making real of what had been imagined, dwelt upon, anticipated.
We are swamped by the suddenly confirmed difference between expectation and fact: between fear of the future, and survival in the present.

We had thought that knowing what to expect readied us for what was to come; we had expected to know where we were, recognize how we felt, and handle everything the situation may bring with a sorrowed, but unbroken, competence and confidence born of our past experiences, combined with a form of rehearsal for this time which had been running through our minds.
This is where we begin to learn that there are some things we regard and take on board as experiences, which are in fact nothing more than imaginations. Some may indeed be based on actual experience, but they are overlaid by our imagination; we cloak past realities with a personal veneer in such a way that it hurts us as we do it; and yet we are glad to do it. For a few moments here, for a little while there, we prick, or even stab ourselves with a genuinely hurtful imagining that it is our parent, our sibling, our child who has gone. We feel that loss as our own.

For a very short time we really do feel grief.
We involve ourselves in a form of role-play which files away the overlaid experience as something we have been through.
We feel better for having hurt ourselves. Why?
Because we know our own parents will die; we know we may outlive some of our siblings and our friends.
Because, in these and in similar forms, these experiences prepare us for the reality of death among those closest to us; … don’t they ?
They are enabling us to deal with the actual situation more easily when it comes; … aren’t they ?
They are building a strength within us that will bring a quiet acceptance of reality when it confronts us; … aren’t they ?
Through this whole process we shall become able to support and console others less able to bear their grief; … shan’t we ?
Asking ourselves these questions is a further extension of this same process. We place each imagining, each overlay, each self-inflicted pain in place as we attempt to build our tower of strength.
Every loss of life not directly involving us, or our immediate family and friends, is felt - at least in part – as a personal pain; … isn’t it?

O, dear, dear Lord, how can we so deceive ourselves? How can we be so very wrong?
Our tower of strength is a mere crumble waiting for the flow of our tears to wash it into oblivion: awaiting truth’s verdict among the grains of sand upon which it is built.
We shall never truly feel grief until it is ours.

“The heart knows its own grief best, nor can a stranger share its joy.” (Proverbs 14:10)

My accumulating years have gradually brought this home to me, and, though I know the pains following the death of parents, I also know them to have been following what we see as the normal and logical pattern: the generations passing through life and departing in their turn. The young replace the mature, and the mature replace the aged as their lives come to an end.
I have not felt the depths involved in the loss of siblings and close friends of my own generation.
Over these last few days I have struggled in a limbo of helplessness as my own child has been shattered by a grief I have never had to feel. Friends have been lost, suddenly, incomprehensibly, and utterly.
She, and many others, have been brutally thrust into a new level of maturity they can never shed.
The world has changed for them.
They have been forced, in an instant, to the very edge of something barely conceivable: to the very lip of understanding as they know it; and this in the hearts and minds of talented individuals whose understanding is already considerable.

Yesterday saw, at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham, the assembly of their accumulated grief at the first of a series of funerals.
My daughter’s return from it – in and of itself a joy cloaked in a dreadful poignancy – brought my own imaginings and overlays down around my head. I could not stop feeling some of her pain, and had to wander off more than once as I dissolved into tears.

My fragility and grief (in the circumstances I feel almost ashamed to use the word in connection with myself) meant that I was unable to give her any real support other than simply being there. I was distressed at seeing the edge towards which she and others had been taken, while I was being kept well back from it.
But, but, but … Is it not simply being there that is most valuable of all?
And thus the poignancy deepens still further: - she returned home. She was here.
Her mother and I were here, and through her homecoming we were able to be here for her.
In our varying degrees, we are held in the grip of a profound inadequacy which, without our awareness of God’s presence, would sweep us towards oblivion.

And here all words from a stranger verge on sacrilege as the fringes of reality are sensed; the reality of the loss for those whose loss it most completely is: those parents and siblings for whom, in this life, there would be no further homecoming.

May Mary, the Mother, who understands the losing of a son more than any other, point the way and lead them towards peace.

May the Father rest His hand upon them.
May Jesus, the Son, sit beside them.
May the Holy Spirit dwell within them.

And may their sons and brothers, having gone on ahead, rest safe in God’s hand until the homecoming of those they have left behind.

Chris Janaway 28, Matt O' Donnell 30, Jon Chandler 26, Andrew Graney 29,

Rohan Chadwick 27,

Michael Hutchinson 44.

About Me

Who I am should be, and should remain, of little consequence to you. Who you are is what matters; who you are meant to be is what should matter most to you. In coming closer to my own true self, I have gradually been filled with the near inexpressible: I have simply become "brim full", and my words to you are drawn from those uttered within myself, as part of an undeniable overflowing that brings a smile to my every dusk, and to my every new dawn.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

hit counters
Cox Cable High Speed

St Blogs Parish Directory
Religion Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory Religion Blogs - Blog Top Sites - The internets fastest growing blog directory Religion and Spirituality Blog Directory See blogs and businesses for United Kingdom