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Friday, August 1, 2014

An incomplete record


We are just back from Antigua where we laid my husband's father to rest at the same spot as his mother, so that the two might be together for eternity. Theirs was a great love story, and more than one person joked that when my husband's father finally arrived in heaven, my mother in law, who had gone five years before, probably greeted him with the question, "What took you so long?" The boy on the right in the photo above grew up to be my husband.


The man I married is 19 or 20 here and sported an afro. Everyone who sees this photo now gets confused, thinking it is our son.


This is how my husband looked when I first met him. He was in college then, while I was already "a sophisticated New York woman," as he puts it, working full time. Yet as I recall the first time I laid eyes on him the thought came unbidden into my head, "I could marry this man." It was so unlike me. Growing up, I never daydreamed about getting married. I thought no one would choose chubby me, so I didn't waste time fantasizing about it. I knew I would have a least one child though. I always knew I wanted to be a mother, and had decided that motherhood didn't necessarily depend on someone choosing me. And yet there it was. That thought in my head the first time I saw him.






My children were super happy to be together again after being apart all summer. They chatted and joked and laughed and caught up on their news and ganged up on their parents, mostly their mother, pushing every button they could find.


My husband drove us all around the island the first day. We visited his childhood home on the agricultural station up at Oliver's, taking in the views. Occasionally he got phone calls related to the funeral arrangements and the repast and would pull over to finalize the plans. My son, who had been his right hand all week, took notes on his phone then resumed bantering with his sister. In the photo below, she was trying to give him a gleeful little sister hug, and he was playfully brushing her away. She was not deterred.


I took hardly any photos on the day of the funeral. I miss them now, the photos I didn't take. Somehow, everything felt too fragile, and me pointing my camera would have felt like an intrusion. I got only this one photo of my daughter and me getting ready.


The next day, our last, we went to "the family beach" at Half Moon Bay, brother, sister and their families, plus three cousins of my husband. My husband took photos and perhaps I will put some of them up later. Those are some of our heads, tiny dots bobbing in the water.



We stayed with my husband's cousin Gunny, who was one half of the couple who introduced me to my husband 31 years ago now. He is the sweetest, kindest man. He did so much for us this week, including helping to organize the repast which at the last possible minute was relocated to his home. We couldn't say thank you enough. Eventually he said, "That's it! No more thank yous. You've used up your quota! We are family. This is what we do." There was still so much to thank him for but after that we said "I love you" instead. That is the view from his driveway. Before his neighbors built that yellow house he used to be able to sit on his car port (where my kids are sitting and playing with his dog below) and see the blue sweep of the Caribbean Sea.




My husband and my son are named after my husband's father; they are Radford Arthur the first, second and third. It was strange at the funeral to hear the name of my husband and of my son being spoken in the past tense. They both admitted that every time their name was said, they flinched a little at the weirdness of it all.





There were so many moments I could not capture in photographs: My brother's in law's beautifully written eulogy for his father, his voice quivering through the delivery; the tears leaking from my husband's eyes; my nieces sitting poised and painfully contained at the viewing; the three sons and three grandsons, unbearably handsome and heartbroken, carrying their father and grandfather's coffin out of the church; the delicate dance of family members, the older aunts and uncles, the siblings and the cousins reconvening; the hot sun beating down on us as we sang hymns at the graveside; the repast, gratefully consumed as evening fell and cooled the air; the two older brothers and their sons sharing stories late into the night, drinking 10-year-old English Harbour rum, my daughter in the midst, laughing at the stories—all of it exists only in memory. But though I miss the photos I did not take this week, I think it was right to refrain.

21 comments:

  1. I LOVE this. Truly. Thank you for sharing this glimpse; the scenes and people both beautiful. You are all stunning, and it's not my eye only :) Thank you again. This was a joy to read.

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    1. SJ, even though the occasion was sad, there was something healing about being with family and seeing the way the threads connect, the way the generations unfold. Thank you. xo

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  2. You just weave magic into these simple life stories, Angella. And the photos that you did take and share with us speak of such beauty and intimacy that we "get" it. Thank you.

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    1. Dear Elizabeth, I didn't want to be insensitive at a time if grief so I tried to capture the mood of it all through my children, who were quite playful at times, and pensive and reflective at others. I'm grateful you see that even though it was all in my own head. Even my son let me take pictures of him! He knew they were my proxies. I've loved your own photos and posts of family this week. Cousins can be one of life's true gifts. Hugs.

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  3. Sublime. That's it. That's all. So much love to you, my sister.

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    1. Kimberly, I know you know what this is like, the family together, honoring one who is greatly loved. The power of that. The old memories and new memories being made. Love to you and your beautiful family. You are a beacon.

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  4. Beautiful capture in photos and words.

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  5. If there is a more beautiful family on earth, I do not know who they would be. And these pictures that you did take- your talent with the camera is so much like your talent with the written word. You get right to the very heart of the picture, of the situation, of the meaning of it all. And with such beauty! Woman!
    And I know this was such a sad occasion but how much sadder it would be to die and have no one to truly mourn you. Do you know what I mean?
    Powerful. All of this.

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    1. Dear Mary, I do know what you mean. My husband's father was greatly mourned, and even better, people greatly rejoiced in his life. He was a good man, a champion of the poor, who his late wife often complained would try to disadvantage himself in solidarity with those who had less. And then there was his great big laugh. Thank you, friend, for your kind words here.

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  6. Welcome home, and thank you so much for sharing these words and photos. Could the blues be any bluer? You and your beautiful family any more beautiful?
    Your father in law was well loved and celebrated, and it is so lovely to see him living on in your family.
    xo

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    1. Mel, he was indeed well loved. By everyone. It was quite remarkable, really. Thanks for being here. xo

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  7. Sometimes we just have to put the camera down and rely on our memories and emotions. This is clearly one of those occasions. It sounds like a wonderful trip, even for all the sadness involved in your father-in-law's passing. And the photos you DID take are wonderful, as usual. :)

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    1. Steve, you're so right. This was definitely a time to lay down my camera. My children, of course, were not quite so privileged by my picture-taking pause.

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  8. Thank you for sharing your story. You have a beautiful family.

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  9. no words, really, just thank you for yet another glimpse into your strong & beautiful family. i love the way the sea always figures in; speaks of home on so many levels...

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    1. Susan, i am still thinking about my time in the salty sea water, so clear and warm and blue. It was healing in every sense of the word. love to you, friend.

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  10. Exquisite, your family! When I see your children together all grownup and still playing with each other like puppies I get all sentimental and my heart thinks it wants out of my chest to just walk this world on it's own. Wonderful photos, and such a wonderful beautiful family you are!

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  11. I know exactly those mood shifts that come in times of grief--the deep sadness that our animal selves seem to know must be balanced with moments of lightness and even wild hilarity. It is an incredibly tender time when I always feel the barrier between this world and the next peels back a bit. You captured that in these wonderful photographs and words. My love to all of you, but to your husband, especially.

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  12. I always love your photographs and in this case I love the ones you took with a camera and the ones you wrote. I can see everything. Touching and beautiful and such a loving family.

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