Last year I retitled this blog, borrowing one of the Reverend’s comments at Jim’s Closing Ceremonies. He asked the men, women, and children in Phillips Church to think about the service, each part of it crafted with great love–and even to appreciate the love in the pauses, the silent spaces.
This is the season when bleary morning eyes see small black birds perched on parallel wires overhead, scattered unevenly, like musical notes suspended in the cooling sky. When I see them I think about how music is as much about the spaces and pacing between notes as it is about the notes themselves, and how singing depends on the silent punctuation of breathing in among the lyrics.
After Eric Clapton lost his young son, Tears in Heaven was among the songs he wrote not for public consumption, but to pose a question he had been asking himself since another family member’s death and “to stop from going mad”: in that unknown space “beyond the door,” would they ever meet again?
For me it is at least as easy to get lost in and let my mind wander among the spaces–the wordless interludes–as in the lyrics. (As Clapton wrote, “It’s difficult to talk about these songs in depth, that’s why they’re songs.”)
Although metaphors of space and distance can be perilous territory when one keeps company with theoretical scientists and pure mathematicians, I also wonder about the seemingly vast spaces between the highs and lows of my life as I have to live it now.
Take this week.
This week’s bookends are the “two mes.” I realize–with a thud in my heart, nearly every moment of every day–that I’m only one person, but there is a vast distance in space and distance between the “work me” and the “non-work me.” And somehow the former is missing far fewer pieces than the latter.
Today, for example, I exercised my professional “‘A’ game” . . .or so I choose to believe, given that (to my immense surprise) someone I have long viewed as a professional nemesis announced in all sincerity in open court that I had “nailed it.” No mas.
Just a week ago, that other me–the one with all the persistently missing pieces–gave a talk at the hospital where my husband Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Those in charge of the talk decided to call it “Love in the Spaces.”
I spoke once again about compassionate care–including silent compassion in that unique space of new death, when a hospice nurse came into our home and used her arms and hands to signal silently to me, over her heart, how sorry she was.
“The space between the tears we cry
Is the laughter keeps us coming back for more
The space between the wicked lies we tell
And hope to keep safe from the pain . . . .
Take my hand ’cause we’re walking out of here . . . .
The space between what’s wrong and right
Is where you’ll find me hiding, waiting for you
The space between your heart and mine
Is the space we’ll fill with time.”