Friday, April 15, 2016

April 14: Sunlit Detail, Grand Rapids, Nostalgia

All these things I saw.  Scenes grew in depth and sunlit detail before my eyes, and were replaced by ever more scenes, as I remembered the life of my time with increasing feeling.

Dillard is talking about memory.  Remembering the sunlit times of her life.  In paragraphs before and after the above passage, she writes of oceans and space and France.  Things from her past.  She's flooded with nostalgia, thinking about a former place or time in her life.  With nostalgia comes a certain degree of sadness, as well.  Dillard is walking a tightrope.  Above, moon and stars.  Below, canyon and darkness.

First, I apologize for my absence these last two days.  It was my mid-week blogging pause to lesson plan and grade and teach.  By the time I get home after class on Wednesday night, I am usually brain dead.  It takes much energy to engage a classroom full of 25 undergraduates between the ages of 18 and 23.  Last night, I had enough gumption to order a pizza, eat it with my wife and daughter, and then stumble off to bed.

This weekend, I will be traveling to Grand Rapids with my family.  My daughter has a dance competition.  We will be leaving tomorrow morning.  It's about a six- or seven-hour drive, depending on the number of stops we make.  The members of our Grand Rapids landing party include myself, my wife and son and daughter, my sister, and my daughter's boyfriend.  By tomorrow night at this time, I will probably be throwing my son into a swimming pool or eating McDonald's food in a room at the Ramada Inn.

On my way home from work this evening, I stopped to visit my sister's grave.  I drive by the cemetery almost every day, and sometimes I just experience this urge to turn into the entrance gates.  Tonight, I stayed there about ten or fifteen minutes, talking, telling my sister about the trip, work, school.  I told her about her godson (my son), and how he is now sporting a Mohawk haircut.  And I told her about my daughter and her boyfriend.  My sister would have liked him.

Yes, like Dillard, I indulged myself in a little nostalgia.  Happiness and sadness.  I know that grieving is a process.  Healing takes a lot of time.  It has been almost eight months since my sister's death.  It was sunny and warm in the cemetery this afternoon.  All the snow had melted around my sister's headstone.  The metal nameplate on it was warm to the touch. 

I sometimes experience tremendous guilt for convincing my family to discontinue my sister's medical treatment, for bringing her home under hospice care.  It's an irrational feeling.  I know this.  My sister's brain lymphoma was very advanced, the tumor in her head caused a debilitating stroke.  She wasn't opening her eyes, barely responded to questions.  She had suffered a lot and was going to die.

My family had been praying for a miracle.  Our parish priest brought the stole of Bishop Baraga to bless my sister.  Frederick Baraga was declared venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.  That means that he's two steps away from being declared a saint.   Father Larry placed the stole around my sister's head, anointed her with chrism.  We recited the rosary.

Now, perhaps the miracle my sister received was an end to her pain.  I remember the morning she died.  One of her best friends was standing at the foot of her bed, and, as we prayed, she lifted her arms up, as if she were giving my sister up to God.  It was a gesture that profoundly moved me.  It was shortly after that moment that my sister breathed her last breath.

Yes, grieving is about letting go.  Releasing all the pain and anger and sadness.  Until I give all that up, I'm never going to be able to appreciate what I had with my sister.  The jokes we shared.  The long hours we worked together.  The closeness and trust.

That is what Saint Marty is missing tonight.  Those sunlit details.

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