Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Irrelevance of Time

ABC News recently published an article about a research study: Bereaved parents can die of broken hearts. Literally.

Yes, yes. We know this.

We bereaved parents know this.

Even if we physically survive our child's death, most of us experience the 'death' of our former self, and have to choose to be reborn- transfigured- into another being. Our worlds, too, are transformed.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is the same. Ever. No sunset or sunrise is ever the same. No finch's call. No lapping wave. No moon glow. No north star's shine. No drive home. Nothing.

Time becomes irrelevant.

The past and future merge into every present moment, and time stands as a soldier waiting. Waiting for the pain to ease. Waiting to hear their voice. Waiting for others to understand. Waiting for some relief. Waiting to hold them again.

Time was irrelevant for me in 1994. Time is irrelevant in 2012. Yet, time seduces us with its illusion, doesn't it?

Until a few years ago, I found myself searching for her in the eyes of other girls with their long legs and their rock band t-shirts and their bubble-yum breath and their straw-colored hair. My eyes would pan the crowds for her identity. I knew that, for me, one way for me to quench that longing would be to transform the evanescent into the tangible. Tricking time, the photograph is an age-progressed forensic drawing, masterfully created from six newborn photos, of Cheyenne...

This is what I lost. And everything between 1994 and this picture. And everything from this picture until I take my own final breath. This is what I lost. Do you see her? Isn't she beautiful?

I no longer search for her in crowds, scanning the eyes of strangers and wondering... Like a cheap psychological trick against time, the charlatan, for a moment, is fooled.

And for that, I am thankful. Speaking of thankfulness...

It takes many years and a lapse of time- and much, much work- for bereaved parents to unearth the type of beauty, and gratitude, and pure joy, and vibrancy for life (speaking of time lapse, that is a link to a must see TED) which rivals the pain, loss, shame, guilt, suffering, and despair.

It remains, for me, one of the great mysteries of the human experience. That is, how the darkness tears our lives open and empties us into the giant chasm of the mysteriously unlimited. Time not only stands still but it feels irrelevant in moments of such profundity. My life has not grown smaller from the grief; it's grown larger, less constricted, more meaningful, and with a depth and breadth I'd not have imagined 17 years ago.

Ah, but what would I give to have her back?

Zora Neale Hurston, in Their Eyes were Watching G*d, wrote:
A thing is mighty big when neither time nor distance can shrink it.

I trust that until we are together again, time will continue to be irrelevant, a mere drop trickling into the ocean of the love we share. And I trust that one day, I'll awaken and I'll hold her again, wherever and in whatever way that may be.

And I will understand why time and space was so inconsequential in the big-ness of her death.

May each of you experience the irrelevance of time as 2012 arrives with its hopes and wishes and aspirations. May you feel only the love, the big, boundless love that dwarfs time, space, and Death.

And to you, little-big girl: I love you Chey. Neither time nor space is relevant in our place of love. I just love you. Timelessly.

To the girl who would've been her best friend-
who hiked barefoot like me
and who was a proud, tree-hugging herbivore-
Happy 19th Birthday Katie Eide.
Your mom and dad love and MISS you so much.
Tell my girl hello and that I love her.
Can't wait to meet you.


Unknown said...

This essay is wonderful. I love the photo of Cheyenne. And you are so right, for all we have done, are doing and will do, we would give it all back to have them in our arms again. It is a timeless grief. Everything has changed.

Karin said...

I often wonder who I would be had none of this happened to me. I guess I'd be a mom busy with lots of kids and this would have informed and shaped my life too, just as their deaths have done. I know people think things like through grief we become stronger. I don't know why I couldn't have also become stronger without the grief! I would love to have known what this other life would have been like. If only we had that sliding door huh. Thanks again Joanne. Miss you!!


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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