Monday, December 27, 2010

Elsewhere, the flares

We had a cozy Christmas inside our little bubble of an apartment, the four of us and one friend of my son's whose mother is away for the holidays, a young man who will be 21 in a month, who has slept on our couch for the past few nights and wrapped himself around our hearts with his cheerful spirit, his easy accommodation to whatever is, which may or may not be the way he is feeling inside, but it has been lovely having him here with us, all six-foot-nine of him stretched out on the long couch, under the gray plaid comforter, the life our family flowing easily around him. He and my son have been friends since they were 12 and 14, they met at camp, have spent many weeks together in the woods every summer, and they are as bonded as brothers. My son is a very loyal and loving friend, and he takes for granted that if he has given his allegiance, his family will, too, and we do.

My daughter and this gentle young man were at the kitchen counter last night, heads together as they worked out a solution to Einstein's famous quiz. Outside, the snow piled up, blowing furiously all through the day and night. We ate Christmas leftovers until, at nine in the evening, my husband and daughter decided to roast a chicken and bake potato wedges in rosemary and olive oil, and wonderful aromas filled the house. We dined at midnight then settled down to watch a whole new movie, since no one had to be up early the next morning.

I have often reflected on my son's gift for friendship. He is rock solid, generous, funny, kind. But he also chooses well; his friends give him back the same loyalty and love. I suspect sometimes that his closest friends are his soul group, that they have incarnated together many times before, and know each other at the core. His friends recognize and appreciate his constancy. They also understand his occasionally prickly and contrary nature, they shrug when he gets like that, they laugh and say, "Oh, that's how he is sometimes," and soon my son comes out of it, because no one is following him to his cranky country, they're letting him blow of steam there in safety and peace, and I could learn a thing or two from his friends.

We did venture out into the snow to check on my aunt, to bring her Christmas gifts and cookies and bites of food, but mostly we stayed cocooned in our bubble, puttering and cooking and working out puzzles and drifting away to different corners of the house and coming back together to talk and laugh and cook some more and watch movies and marvel at the snow piling up and up outside. My son, who ran to the store for his dad and sister, remarked this was more snow than he has ever seen in the city. And then we all told snow stories. It was all so stream of consciousness.


But somewhere out there beyond the snow, I discerned the flares. Other people were having a very different kind of Christmas. One of my cousins was trying to steady her children for their parents' looming divorce, and her move this week from the family home. One of my nieces, whose wedding I was to attend in Jamaica next month, called to say the ceremony had been canceled, the reasons were personal and would not be discussed. She sounded strong, much stronger than her mother, whose heart is breaking for her, and my mother, who my brother noted takes on everyone's aches as if they are her own. My family in Jamaica was a little shaky this Christmas, pasting on a brave smile and pushing forward. My husband and his siblings were dealing with another holiday without their beloved mother, and the lonely silences that have developed in her absence. And in Virginia, my friend Tamara was sitting with her mother and sister at her dad's bedside, keeping the final vigil. She posted updates on Facebook that were full of sorrow and wonder and tenderness, a painfully exquisite record of the end of her father's life.

"He is speaking the most beautiful language that we cannot understand with his familiar gestures and facial expressions. It sounds like something ancient."

"We sit, one on each side, and listen. Just listen. It is ceremony. We are honoring and honored. Every moment shimmers."

I read her posts and wept for her, and ineptly wrote her my love and prayers. And then on Christmas day the status updates changed.

"Everywhere I look I see something he touched, made, fixed, loved. Daddy. I am never going to stop missing my Daddy."

And I realized he was gone.

Tamara, my beloved friend, I think you will understand my desire to repost your words here. I want to remember them, and to keep this record of the breathtaking way in which your shared your father's last moments on this earth with those of us who love you. Through your stories over the years, we had come to know the deeply good man who was your father. Such fathers must be held up to the world and remembered always. I send you love, dear Tamara, though I have no words to make your grief any less. How could we not grieve the loss of such a man as your father? 

I am holding you now. I hope you can feel it somehow.


  1. You know, I sincerely believe in GOOD death. Just as with birth, there is a better way, one that we have so often lost or forgotten as have let the professionals take over. I am glad that Tamara was able to be with her beloved father in such an honoring and awed way.
    Family. Isn't that it? All of it? And those who have become the families of our heart?
    This touched me so, Angella. It did.

  2. Ms. Moon, his was a very good and lovingly attended death. thank you for taking it in, dear friend. i know you understand.

  3. All of this was powerful beauty.
    I am silenced in the sacredness.

    love to you, Angella.

  4. So tender, dear Angella. Life, death, and the cycle of what is. It must all be honored so that the moment of death feels full and not at all empty. My heart breaks for your friend, Tamara's loss of her father. But also raises with wings, in the idea that the transition came with love and family and fullness.

    Big hugs,

  5. What a touching post. So many tears in my eyes I can hardly type. I know what your friend means about the ancient language with familiar gestures. I have seen it before several times with persons in my family. I do believe we go to another place or dimension and it is good there.

  6. I love your writing. I enjoy reading you daily, you have in the past few months become a soothing ritual (I found you through mammapundit). Your words, the way you talk about your husband, your kids, with such respect, pride, love, concern and understanding. I hope one day to be able to feel the same for someone else.
    Happy Holidays
    Miss A. (34 yo, NY)

  7. There is so much compassion and so thoughtful too in it.


  8. What you wrote touched me. Thank you, Angela.


  9. What a beautiful post -- I've come here, to your blog, to thank you for your kind comments over at my own. I so look forward to exploring this beautiful place!

  10. I appreciate your being here more than you can know.

    i hope each one of you will come back soon.


  11. so much depth, beauty, wonder, and love in this post and my heart has been touched in so many different ways from a celebration of the joy of family and friendship to acknowledgments of the transitory nature of life and sometimes of love and promises.....

    warm, cuddly thoughts to you all....

  12. mouse, it's so fascinating to me how both poles of emotion and experience can exist together. life in all its glory. hugs.