Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December 15: Celtic Cross, Holy Cross Cemetery, Annie Dillard, On the Lighter Side

They buried his son on Christmas Eve morning, 1967, out in Long Island, his marker a simple Celtic cross.  The burial was covered by the press, despite efforts to maintain privacy.  A lot of important people came, few whom Ives knew.  Zoom-lensed cameras captured the scene, and in an unfortunate gaffe, they published a picture of Celeste, Robert's former girlfriend, who had fallen apart and kept her distance from the family until the funeral, being held in Ives' arms, and identified her as his daughter.

Yes, Ives' son is buried on December 24th.  It's a dark scene, full of chaos and sadness.  A moment that should be small and intimate is a spectacle of cameras and celebrities.  The Ives' family must grieve under a magnifying glass.  There is no opportunity for privacy and heartbreak.

This evening, at Holy Cross Cemetery, my family came together to lay my sister to rest.  As darkness fell, our parish priest led us in prayer and song.  My seven-year-old son sobbed through the entire ceremony.  I could hear my father quietly crying behind me.  It was solemn and cold and, in a strange way, beautiful.  Snow fell last night, so everything was coated in a rime of white.  Currier & Ives sorrow.

It felt like a door closing, in a way.  Until today, my sister's journey was incomplete.  She'd been waiting these past months for this final moment of parting and tears.  I have to be honest.  I don't find much comfort in the idea of her in that dark graveyard tonight while I'm sitting in my living room, staring at the blinking lights on the Christmas tree. 

I know that it's ridiculous, but I almost feel like I've placed my sister on an ice floe and launched her into an arctic sea.  She's growing smaller, less distinct.  As she reaches the horizon, she lifts her arm and waves one last time.  Then, she's gone.  Forever.

I'm sorry if I don't have some comforting wisdom for you after my days of absence.  My semester's work is done, four days of massive grading behind me.  I will be the first to admit that these last three months of teaching have been difficult.  My focus has been very . . . diffused.  But I did the best I could.  Last night, after I entered my final grades on the computer, I didn't experience relief or satisfaction, like I normally do.  I felt . . . disappointed that I hadn't done a better job.

Sometimes, however, I have to find satisfaction simply in surviving a very difficult time.

The Poet of the Week is Annie Dillard.  I believe I featured her earlier this fall, but I find great comfort in her writing sometimes.  The following passage comes from her book Teaching a Stone to Talk:

We are clumped on an ice floe drifting over the black polar sea.  Heaven and earth are full of our terrible singing.  Overhead we see a blurred, colorless brightness; at our feet we see the dulled, swift ice and recrystallized snow.  The sea is black and green; a hundred thousand floes and bergs float in the water and spin and scatter in the current around us everywhere as far as we can see.  The wind is cool, moist, and scented with salt.

I have little else to say tonight.  It's good to blog again, to get back to some sense of normalcy.  My side of the world is approaching the winter solstice.  The longest night of the year.  Soon, the days will start growing longer.  Light will overtake the darkness.

Saint Marty is ready for a little more light in his life.

On the lighter side...

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