“The Observer,” (c) 2012 Suzannah R. Glennon
Another of our youngest child’s remarkable photographs is a portrait of her sister. She calls it “The Observer.”
Sometimes all you can do is watch and absorb the swirl of what is going on around you, and try to resist being pulled into the vortex of solitary grief.
This seems especially true as people you love experience pain. A friend suffers intense chronic physical pain, and I feel as I felt when Jim felt symptoms of his illness and side-effects of treatment, and when one of my children was hospitalized years ago in critical condition: it would be easier if it were me; I wish I could take it on myself, or at least diffuse it.
My children suffer from Jim’s absence. The entire family suffers. His friends and colleagues suffer, too.
I believe psychic pain can be diffused through shared bonds, to a degree. It can’t dissipate in solitude, as seductive as solitude sometimes seems. As Rabbit observed to the recalcitrant Eeyore (easily the literary plush character with whom I always have most closely identified) in The House at Pooh Corner, “You just stay here in this one corner of the Forest waiting for the others to come to you. Why don’t you go to them sometimes?”
When I took over driving Jim’s truck exactly a year ago last night, it had a sound system far too complex for a person of my technological ineptitude. In gathering myself at night, on those nights I returned home for an hour or so of disturbed sleep, I would sit in Jim’s seat, seemingly always in some sort of downpour of rain, snow, or hail that spattered against the windshield like uncooked rice kernels. Of course, Jim had installed the complicated system himself, and connected it to his vast musical library. I pressed and repressed buttons, because I needed music to accompany me on my drive home.
But among my husband’s thousands of songs there were only three I wanted to play, again and again, all from Mumford & Sons‘ “Sigh No More”:
One was Timshel ,
Cold is the water
It freezes your already cold mind
Already cold, cold mind
And death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance
But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand
I wept every single time I drove home from the hospital with this soundtrack, but still played it over and over—every time I could figure out that tricky sound system. The last verse always did it, seeming directly to speak to my children:
And I will tell the night
Whisper, “Lose your sight”
But I can’t move the mountains for you
No adjectives are adequate to describe how brave and compassionate and loving my children have been in trying to go on as they know their father would want, knowing that he would want them to have the best lives they can without him physically here. No words are adequate to describe the love we all have been given by friends.
Back to the sustaining circle who surrounded the Bear of Very Little Brain (who would have found my husband’s stereo system even more daunting than did I): as Christopher Robin said to Winnie-the-Pooh, “you must always remember: you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think, but the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.”
But I wish I could move the mountains for them.
(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon