family story

The kids and their cousins, aunts and uncles placed the sister stone to Terry’s headstone in our front garden just as the memorial gathering at our place was winding down. We had the second stone made, almost identical to the stone placed at her grave, so the kids would have a way to feel connected to Momma and where she was laid to rest. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare, so many people were coming and going. I knew the important rituals would come later – when the kids spent time there by themselves, when they pressed their hands on its sun-warmed roughness, traced her name and talked to her, and when they would adorn it. It took about a week for that to kick in.

First they moved the small fairy house to surround the stone complete with pathway and sign, they knew how much the Sidhe meant to Terry. Next a lavender sprig lay on the tiny table, and then a bouquet. Our friend Lora had carved a stick, almost as a keening for Terry while she grieved. Tadg set that in the ground near the stone. True was especially attracted to quiet time there, whispering sweetly as she rubbed the stone gently.

I’ve been gathering whats most delicate in my life nearer to me,
handfuls of tiny autumn leaves,
I’ve been gathering together things in my life
I almost forgot I needed,
and that needed a little more grace from me.

When Terry went she took with her theĀ what-might-happen-next-stories the children clothed themselves in every day. She took the story about when True was going to spend the whole day just with Momma, when they would make up private jokes and buy those special dresses she loved. She took with her the story of the time she and Tadg would drive up to the city to hit a few art galleries and museums, palling around for hours just enjoying each other. She took the story of what we would do when she graduated with her MSW, going up by the Russian river to play and eat and laugh. I’m not as good a maker of those kinds of stories as Terry was.

What is my story of us? Tadg said the other night that Momma laughed a lot more easily than me, he said we had to work on that. Boy is he right. We have survived the initial crisis of losing Terry. We’re still here, our hearts are mostly in tact. We can still feel the warmth and weight of that stone we pass every morning as we come and go.

We’re not ready to move on,
we’re ready to move in,
deeper, together.
The cauldron of our family
will remake us again,
not seperate from Momma,
but with her on the other side.
She visits as the clip-buzzing of dragonflies,
in the heft of the Great Herons wings that visited us
three times on her memorial weekend,
and as the drunken honeysuckle
that suddenly smothers us,
as we water the garden.

When I was waiting to pick up our Sister-Stone from the cemetery I noticed the stone laying just next to hers. It had a fisherman engraved and the Star of David. Above that the name “George Burns.” Good old George, I’d just mentioned him a few days before in my blog post Widower. He was waiting there to affirm I was in the right place, or more likely, Terry was. I think she likes her stone because of how it creates a gravity for our hearts to orbit around. Somehow we all connect through it, the living and the dead, a family still bound by love. The longer I’m a parent the more I believe we all live and evolve within each other. Our hearts are refuges for each other.

I within you,
you within me,
all of us nesting,
within our family.

I think most of us are not taught how to deal with that cauldron within a cauldron. It changes and grows, we seem to stumble blindly around its edges much of the time. When one of us dies there’s a mandatory remaking of all of us. Maybe thats what grieving is really about, a kind of menstrual process of letting one layer of the womb we all share be sloughed off revealing the new, raw soil beneath. Some of us are moreĀ abrased than others by the process…the littlest ones especially.

This daughters heart escaped me again,
why haven’t I spent more time with her?
She wants a foil for her majestic intrigues,
she needs a clown who is also
a pretend suitor.
I can no longer lumber through her days,
stumbling over the treasures she drops in our path together.

I knew I couldn’t walk around as if my life were tragic for having lost Terry, if I did the kids would feel nothing but tragedy whenever they sought refuge within me. The new stories must still have joy and hope. We need to grieve together, but their lives are not tragic, so mine cannot be, so Terry’s cannot be. She was a gift, I wouldn’t bury the light of that forever beneath bitterness or haunted nostalgia. Their lives are still epic, still magical, still full of the hope that defines youth. They have to know how lucky we all were to have been with her for as long as we were. How blessed we are that her spirit-wings might still brush us from time to time, throughout our lives.

These days Tadg tells me he loves me with a freedom and passion I haven’t felt since he first started to talk. I never knew a young boy could reach out so much to his Dad, could be so honest in his love and what he wanted from me. He’s become a fire for me, one that can roast my heart unexpectedly. He wants more time from me, just the two of us. He makes me feel so important in his life, a hero every day.

True now says there is a tiny fairy living in the house by the Sister-Stone. She’s never really done that, I keep wondering if one day she’s going to say that its Momma’s spirit, taking up residence to keep an eye on us. Wouldn’t that be great, a little Momma to tell us what to do, to watch over us? I’m sure True would be happy to translate for her, to keep me and Tadg in line.

I’ve started to journey and move every morning, returning again to the work with the Sidhe I was developing before Terry got ill. I am such a different person now. One of the gifts of Terry’s passing was my own mortality, the weight of me is more fully with the spirits when I journey now. My questions are different, their work there is so much about mending me at deeper and deeper levels. I haven’t sought Terry out again there, respecting her space. I have a feeling though, through working with the Sidhe I’ll run into her again, on her own terms. Maybe I’ll start to see her in that little house by the Sister-Stone just like True. Maybe we all can share some honey-suckle tea and a few more laughs together. There’s always hope.

So now I’m grieving and looking for new stories, or just making sure I grab onto the ones that flow by. The other day in counseling the Hospice therapist asked me, “well what would Terry want you to carry forward? What would be her new story?” I closed my eyes and immediately saw Terry sitting in a creek in a forest, water cascading around her. “She’d want us all to be in the forest together, near water, nearer to her.”

And so it shall be.

Much love to you and yours during this time of great change.

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