Friday, January 06, 2006

Poor Wayfaring Bystander

Wayfaring Bystander

From the recent and somewhat close-to-home mining disaster, to someone close to our family battling cancer, to the everyday struggles I witness as an individual contributor in a family-based enterprise, some events remind me that in some cases, I’m a woman on the outside looking in.

I’ve had a rich life in a lot of ways, and because I chose to live with intention, I gave up some of that inner wealth to forge a more authentic existence. This came into sharp relief earlier this week, after spending a rare vacation day with my children while most of the rest of the world was back at work. My children and I had taken a walk along the bike path to check on our favorite ponds and paths, and enjoy the unusually mild afternoon weather. Once home and settled, the kids went about their unwinding while I did a bit of work and planned our dinner strategy. In that moment I was transported back to a time when I did not work outside the home and my main occupation was the care and feeding of two small children and one grownup man. I suffered an instant of confusion as I pulled myself back into real time: there were only the three of us, and even at that, only half of the time.

Our life together is good. What is missing is not so much missed as noted on occasion, as in this odd moment where it seemed my new life, which I love, crossed paths briefly with my old life, which for a time was good too, if often a little soul-less and ultimately ill-fitting.

This experience is what makes me feel something of an outsider during these times of national and personal crisis. I left one kind of life behind, because the love had died and what was left wouldn't still be working 40 years from now. Then, the love that I was certain I wanted ultimately turned out to be the one I had to refuse. And so, at 40, while I know what it is to love, I will never know what it feels like to lose a partner I’ve loved for a lifetime. My former father-in-law is facing this; the women whose lovers and husbands perished in Sago Mine are facing it as they bury their men. I cannot fully understand; I can only appreciate having been halfway there, and imagine the sense of loss at letting go of one, true partner.

Despite this lesson, being surrounded by these kinds of losses, or near-misses, somehow girds my sense that it is what we do here on earth, and the love we give each other now, that matters, no matter for how short or long a time. I have learned that having lived a life giving and accepting love in one form or another, whether it is to and from children, brothers and sisters, parents, service to a cause or the people in our communities, our friends, one special love -- or for the most fortunate, all of these -- is not only a worthy goal in and of itself, but perhaps all there is. Some believe they will have another chance or are here only to reach some golden shore. I finally realized that we stand on that shore now, and have to love and celebrate each other while we live.

This tune is a parting song. Parting songs, for me, are right up there with murder ballads. The sadder they are, the more I love ‘em. “Your Long Journey” is a such a song, all the lovelier when sung as a duet. I send this out to all true lovers who face that sad final parting, whether they’ve been together a week or a lifetime.

And by the way: while I shouldn't have to remind y'all, tell someone you love that you love them, today, before they take their long journey.

Your Long Journey

God's given us years of happiness here
Now we must part
And as the angels come and call for you
The pains of grief tug at my heart

Oh my darling
My darling
My heart breaks as you take your long journey

Oh the days will be empty
The nights so long without you my love
And when God calls for you I'm left alone
But we will meet in heaven above

Oh my darling
My darling
My heart breaks as you take your long journey

Fond memories I'll keep of happy ways
That on earth we trod
And when I come we will walk hand in hand
As one in Heaven in the family of God

Oh my darling
My darling
My heart breaks as you take your long journey


At January 06, 2006 10:10 PM, Blogger Darkneuro said...

MM, WOW. This is a BEAUTIFUL post. And it gets right to the heart of it, no pun intended. One of my most treasured memories is my grandparents in their kitchen with nobody else around. I was about 12 and had just come upstairs from the basement. They hadn't seen me. Grampa put his hand on my grandmother's shoulder as she was cooking dinner, leaned down, kissed her cheek gently and said "You be sure to feed our youngun's enough, Ellie." (he really said this... Arkie to the core)

I want to be able to look at someone the way she looked up at him. When he died of liver cancer 7 years ago, a light went out of her. I could feel him still around, but only until her death a year ago from a freak anyuerism. They're together now, I'm sure of it. And that's the way it should be.


At January 07, 2006 8:12 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Amen, dear Dark Neuro. Surely there are on Earth at least two men capable of loving a woman both above and below the neck. Here's hoping they each find you and I before too long!

Thanks for the sweet story, as well. Not all families generate memories like that one.



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