Wednesday, December 28, 2016
December 28: A Pricked Balloon, Wife's Grandmother, Homecoming
He didn't jump; I crept closer. At last I knelt on the island's winterkilled grass, lost, dumbstruck, staring at the frog in the creek just four feet away. He was a very small frog with wide, dull eyes. And just as I looked at him, he slowly crumpled and began to sag. The spirit vanished from his eyes as if snuffed. His skin emptied and drooped; his very skull seemed to collapse and settle like a kicked tent. He was shrinking before my eyes like a deflating football. I watched the taut, glistening skin on his shoulders ruck, and rumple, and fall. Soon, part of his skin, formless as a pricked balloon, lay in floating folds like bright scum on top of the water: it was a monstrous and terrifying thing. I gaped bewildered, appalled. An oval shadow hung in the water behind the drained frog; then the shadow glided away. The frog skin started to sink.
Dillard's little paragraph pretty much drives home the fact that death is never easy, rarely pretty. She watches life literally drain from the frog, a sight that she describes as "monstrous and terrifying." One minute, the frog's eyes are are seeing and seen. The next, they are shriveling into oblivion. I agree with Dillard. Death is bewildering and appalling.
Many of you may already be aware that my wife's grandmother, Corinne, passed away late last night. She was 98 years old, and she had not been doing well for many years. We already knew that the end was near, but, when the phone started ringing at eleven o'clock last night, I couldn't help but feel like Dillard on the banks of Tinker Creek, watching the frog sink into nothingness.
Of course, as a Christian, I do not believe that death is a filmic fade out. On the contrary, I think that there's a whole lot of horn blowing and hallelujah-ing on the other side when somebody dies. It's a homecoming, not a Dylan Thomas raging. Souls are never lost. They are always found.
Now, I am not sentimentalizing death here. Death sucks. It hurts. My wife's grandma lived almost a full century, and yet, when I picked up the phone last night, my wife's sister was crying. Corinne was a good woman. Took care of her family until she was almost ninety years old. Cooked Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas turkey. Never forgot a birthday. Always had ice cream in the summer, hot tea in the winter. And she never missed church on Sunday morning.
She also endured a whole lot of tragedy. She saw both of her children die before her. As a parent, I simply can't imagine that. Yet, I can honestly say that I only saw her cry on a couple of occasions. My memory of Corinne will always be of a woman who was constantly laughing and playing games. Loving life, despite its brokenness.
So, tonight, I lift up my wife's grandmother, Corinne. Be sad with us. Rejoice with us. There's a new saint up there, watching over us.
Please vote for Saint Marty (Martin Achatz):
Voting for next Poet Laureate of the U. P.