It’s been a while since I featured one of my “Musings” blog posts, and there is a reason for that. Since seeing my beloved mother safely to the other side of the dream in October, I have been in a bit of a bogey hole of loss and transition. It hasn’t been until the last couple of months that I have been able to crawl to the top of the hole and carefully hoist myself out. As I dust myself off, I realize I have some advice for anyone approaching, circling, or in, a dark night of the soul.
1) Take a flashlight. There will be some interesting findings and details down there that you’ll only be able to see by shining a light on them. And they are so worth seeing. 2) Bring reminders of your tribe -whoever or whatever that may be – and an item or two that comforts you but doesn’t take up a lot of space. You might only have enough room to carry it in your pocket, so choose wisely. (I brought three phone numbers and a picture of my mother.) 3) Bring a journal. Write about the experience. Write about what you see, what you miss, what you long for, what comforts you. Write about what you’ll do when you finally see the light of a new day. Write a word or two every night, even if the only words you can write are “Help me” and “Please”. 4) Be brave, and try not to be afraid. And know that TRYING not to be afraid is plenty good enough. And then let yourself be afraid. 5) Know that you’re never, ever alone. There are bogey hole angels who will appear just when you need them the most. Of this I’m certain.
My beloved sister Jan – my angel on earth – is my only living sister now. We have one brother left, Mike, and after years of slowly and naturally growing apart, we find ourselves in a new place together. The only survivors of an incredible family, sharing a love that was nurtured by years of laughter, tears, arguments, celebrations and awkward family photos (at my mother’s insistence). Our other siblings, Tom, Chris and Steve, and both of our parents, are safely Home now. We have no doubt we will see them again.
As Jan and I have been emptying my mother’s house in preparation to sell, I came across a picture of our family when we were all together, taken some time around 1972. I think it was my parent’s surprise 25th anniversary party. Everyone in it is young and healthy, even my parents, and we are in the living room of the family home that is now empty. When my brother was home from North Caroline recently, I asked my remaining siblings if we could recreate this photo, leaving spaces to mark those who are no longer with us. Mike obliged. Jan thought it was sobering. I knew it was something I HAD to do as the youngest member of this family – the overly sensitive artist – the preserver of time.
603 East High Street is about to become another family’s new home. With it’s peeling paint, leaky faucets and creaky floors, I honor the stage that it was for my family’s play. Each room has it’s own echoes – loving reminders of voices that left too soon. Inside the small yellow kitchen the ghosts still gather, drinking coffee late into the day and telling stories that have been told before but never seem to get old. There was a bell on the back door that was removed sometime around November, but I still hear it late at night when I’m there, as if a loved one has come home once more to say a final good bye. With each piece of furniture that is removed, each photo that is taken off the wall (leaving a literal imprint of dust from decades of hanging in the same spot … my mother wasn’t big on change), I am more aware than ever before in my life of time’s sacred passage. It’s such a bittersweet experience – this romance I have with time. I’m always trying to capture it – keep it in place – hold it gently in a sort of ethereal freeze frame – but it always moves on. The best I can do is to try and preserve it in a photograph. And for this post, words.
I’m beginning a new time in my life. I’ve survived the dark night of the soul – way deep in the bogey hole of longing and sadness – and now that I’m in the light of a new day I can clearly see the gifts from my time there. I wouldn’t miss them for anything, and I’d even do it all again, just for these gifts. They will lead me into this next part of my adventure, escorting me like a trustworthy caretaker as I continue this newly orphaned journey of my life – right on time, perfectly on time. I have all I need now, and I believe my best days are ahead of me, just down the road, past the lonely brick house at the corner of High Street.
Goodbye sweet home. Thank you for holding us so safely with your strong walls and sturdy floors. You were the perfect setting for our time together, and I know you will be for the next family that settles into your comforting environment. Thank you for all the holidays and gatherings. Thank you for raising a young and noisy family as we ran through the hallways and stairs “like a herd of cattle”, as my father would yell from his favorite chair in the living room. The conversations and laughter still resonate in this house, and I know that new conversations will add to your character and charm, filling each room as they had before our young family moved in. The first layer of voices dated back to 1915, and I swear I could still hear them as recently as last week. Those voices, and the beautiful souls who they belonged to, are the remnants that I will take with me. They have become my own.
Thank you beloved home. You will always be my family home. Now you will be someone else’s.