Thursday, October 30, 2014

All Hallow's Eve

Dear Dad,
Today it's a gorgeous autumn day.  
The sky is that washed out blue with wispy clouds.
The backyard is littered in leaves.
The sunlight has that distinct slanted look, different from the drenching wash of summer. When you are outside, even in the late afternoon sunlight, a long-sleeve shirt isn't unwelcome.
While a lot of the trees around my neighborhood have lost all their yellow leaves, my neighbor's trees are just now turning, and they're glorious!  I have yellow hanging over my driveway, and something bright to greet me as I open and close the curtains in the schoolroom. 

The maple in my backyard is doing what it always does -- several shades all at once, each leaf in its own process of change.  It is a myriad mix of greens and reds and some muted oranges.

This morning we gathered around the table in the front room for journal writing.  We all wrote letters today: Isaiah wrote to Anna, Mia to Nae Nae, Benji to Talon, and I wrote grandparents.  Claire busied herself getting on the table (and being taken off), and I attempted to distract her by offering her paper to color on.  It worked briefly.

We read in the sunshine during lunchtime, and listened to our history lesson while I rolled out sugar cookies.  Isaiah and Mia played with extra dough and Benji played with legos. Claire napped.

Afterward, the boys were downstairs cleaning their room and yelling at each other and my patience is about out.  Mia was busy frosting her bunch of cookies.

Earlier today, I went downstairs to make my bed and straighten things up.  My book was still open on my pillow, and I looked for a bookmark so I could close it and put it on my nightstand.

I looked at a pile of papers there, sheets that had been at home in the front of my journal, random bits and pieces: letters, talks, quotes, notes of things to write about, saved programs, etc.  I pulled out a card, thinking I would just tuck it in the book briefly until I found something else.  It was a birthday card from you in 2009.  

I looked at your elegant penmanship and read your words.  You said your love for me "goes clear to the bone," and wished me goodness and God's richest blessings for the coming year.

I read it and sat there, thinking about you for a minute.  Thinking about how, then, I had no idea you would be gone in just-less-than-four-and-a-half-years from that point.  


I also sat there, thinking about something I've learned in the past year -- and it is this. Until losing you, I didn't realize that when you lose someone you love deeply, they never really leave you.  

It's like this poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye, written in 1932.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.  
I am not there.  I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there.  I did not die.

Of course, my sentiments would be different.

You're in the way I think of flowers, the way I stain my fingers with dirt.
You're a piece of Bach's music, fine chocolate, the texts of certain hymns, letter writing.
When I see tulips or Easter lilies, or make pies in my quiet kitchen at night, I feel you in the work and simple, stunning beauty.

(apple pie making, the other night)

Lots of things.

The people you love become a part of you.
I think it is one of God's most lovely gifts, a gift I hadn't discovered til incredible sadness, through loss, carved its way into my heart.  That chasm made room for warmth that I hadn't anticipated.

I've always thought of Lehi's discourse on opposition (2 Nephi 2) as a commentary on the difficulties of life.  But.  It occurs to me, now, that it goes, just as equally, the other way.  When God says that opposition is one of the guarantees, something we can count on, He also meant opposition to pain and struggle.  

He meant that He would meet you, in those dark places.

Just last night, a line from something I was watching stuck out to me.  One of the characters had just suffered a crushing loss, and someone said to her, "You keep on living, until you feel alive again."


This has had application in my life over the past year in so many ways.

In relationships that mattered to me.
In questions that I don't know the answers to.
In forging ahead, when you can't always see the way.

I love that quote.

Keep on living, until you feel alive again.

I've realized that losses can become gains, Dad.
I've learned that pain is part of joy.
I've found that these pieces are part of the same whole.

And as I log off of blogger this afternoon and head to the kitchen to make beef stroganoff, I'll think of you as I make scratch sauce.
I'll brown meat and diced onions.  
I'll add in a little flour and mushrooms, pour in cream and some red cooking wine, mustard, red pepper, salt.
I'll let things simmer and thicken, and I'll taste test.

I learned it from you.

Happy 30th of October, Dad.
All Hallow's Eve.



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