The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoners,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
I’m trying to keep busy. Our social life has taken off somewhat (well, compared to before anyway) and recently we’ve been getting together with friends and family more, and even went to a wedding yesterday (congratulations Meg and Joe!!!!!!!). A couple of weeks ago I took a four-day class at The Loft about writing the short personal essay, and I have two pieces I’m working on: one about my mother’s rosary and her legacy, and another about my first trip out to Fort Snelling to visit my mom’s grave. It is MUCH harder to write short than to write long! I’ve been journaling quite a bit too, which helps me deal with my grief, a little, although of course it’s not enough.
Last Sunday I finally went to Mass at the Basilica for the first time since mom’s funeral. It was as emotionally wrenching as I had expected, although I’m still glad I went, despite the buckets of tears I wept. Ah well. It wasn’t the first time I’ve cried at Mass, and I imagine it won’t be the last.
And I need to thank everyone who responded to my post earlier this summer, when I was feeling awfully desperate. Your messages of friendship and caring made me feel that I was not alone and were SO comforting; grief is mighty lonely and such a long hard agonizing slog it’s sometimes hard for me to believe I might actually live through it.
There is a poem I can’t stop thinking about that I first read not long after my dad died; it’s even more poignant now that mom is gone too. It captures all my aching loneliness, my anger over what is gone from me forever, my sense of despair and crushing loss. And my broken heart. By Edna St. Vincent Millay, this particular poem keeps reverberating in my mind, day after day:
Dirge Without Music
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind.
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew.
A formula, a phrase remains.–but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love–
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses.
Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know.
But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave.
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind.
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
–Edna St. Vincent Millay
My parents on their wedding day in 1963
They are now buried together in the same grave at Fort Snelling National Cemetery
My mom sounded good on the phone today, not huffing and puffing as she usually does during conversation these days. Of course, every day she tells me things are rosy and peachy and oh so wonderful, and I have no way to verify this since I have a cold and can’t get near her right now for obvious reasons. However, I have found that her opinion of her progress and that of her medical team quite often are so divergent as to bear no relation to each other whatsoever. The other day she was telling me she thought she’d be back in her apartment soon–the day after her medical team recommended 24-hour nursing care!
Thursday, we meet with a caseworker and a nurse from Allina Palliative and Hospice Care to go over her advance directive and discuss her eligibility for hospice. My feeling is that she’s not quite, yet, but is getting close.
The rain to the wind said,
“You push and I’ll pelt.”
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt.
And lay lodged–though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.
American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach
Over 9,000 American soldiers who lost their lives in WWII are buried here
In Flanders Fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amidst the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We loved, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
–Maj. John McCrae, spring 1915