We hadn’t met since her shoulder hurt and she returned from Doc with a reminder to walk 45 mins a day, and no fries, okay. By now I’m missing my sis, but who could have prepared me for her smile as we walked in to her cool house an hours drive away? The whole place felt like her Sam had just been in the room and had gone out for a moment. And she looked like that way too, not half a person like she was the day he left, but fuller now in the way grief brings back a beloved.
Her eyes were warm with love and longing, we did not speak at once about him, it wasn’t easy with his chair and footstool, cushion and slippers – just so. Even the lights were low, how he liked it them. Dusk deepened but she wouldn’t turn them brighter, sitting in his chair with Australian TV on for news of when borders would open to International travel so she could be with her sons and new grand daughter.
We are talking and holding hands. She feels like Ma, warm cool skin. Ma had that. Long nails in slender fingers. Hands that had held Sam till he gave in to the thing that took him, held him those last ten minutes with the doctors standing quiet behind her, nor knowing what to say.
After her lunch of chicken curried in drumstick and gourd fried in tiny semicircles, sprouts and curd, oh soft hot rice and more dishes…. I can’t remember now, the heart turns to mush thinking of what she must have felt serving a spread like that and him not there, not having his meat roast, his chuckle in the centre of the room, and what hits me in the region of the cardia is that Thel will grieve till she heals and she will heal differently. I want to just snuggle with her and chat and not do anything in particular but we’ve all grown up so much these days, life had long routes and we took every turn. We learned to love from distances and lean close too and not stay; we learned to write short notes and socially distance, we learned manners and protocol, we learned to be afraid and trust the things we left unsaid,to stay that way. We visited and played little games like hide and seek, we died and rose again every now and then, in the way children play games pretending we are all grown up, when in fact deep within, little is exchanged. The world still tips on an axis, it still has its 2 hemispheres with Eskimos and tropical forests. Yes they are depleted, yes there are stalkers and pirates, there are viruses and rogue kings, and there are the children we are when we are sad or alone and the shadows of tomorrow lean in our doorways, we understand what they’ve been trying to teach us all along in Bibles and basic math: that no matter what, infinity will multiply. We are not thinking all that inside our heads as we leave my sisters long cool hall and gentle plants she grows in little pots among slender candle stand and memoirs of love glowing in the soft light as night deepens. It is winter already, an Indian winter chilly nippy in the tip of nose; a nice kind of chilly like crisp cool apples sliced to taste. Her face glows with words, she always did words well. I have them stuck in my throat, I’m not crying yet. Bravery hurts like hell: hers. Her books and paintings wait like forgotten friends, bowls, shirts, sheets, photographs and her way of keeping them all at bay; she gives me pieces of her self, a jar she painted, Tees for the kids, a shower curtain in snazzy black and white, an embroidered table runner, a plant, no two… they are no longer objects, they are Letters of yesterday and tomorrow bridged with today….. Whatever that means I will understand later. We forget to take pictures together. “Idiots,” Sam would’ve said with his characteristic grin, I miss him to pieces and she sees it, holds us close as if willing her mortal gut into me, knowing it cannot fill gaps, knowing that gaps are gaps. They are entities, angels of a kind that anesthetize human reactivity. Pain: she wears it like a bride wears jewels, they glow and settle in the skin in her… I don’t know how best to say it but its the way she looked standing there suddenly not alone, suddenly not just one person. He was there in her, his absence a Presence, beautiful in its overwhelming way….
Unsure if I’m saying it clear. If you’ve been there you’ll know.
This Thanksgiving I’m reminded to thank God for Gifts with no name: mingling pain with gratitude for Love. This Thanksgiving may we experience that kind of Spirit that harvests off acres of walking with Grace. And Courage, and the Invisible. Where does Love go, It cannot disappear; It is too wide and deep, too strong, too high above human understanding to be annulled just because we think we die the way we do. Nah sir, nah. It goes on and on and on. Like Titanic’s Jack, you can’t fake this thing, you can’t negate it. Yell all we want against Divine existence, I felt Sam in the doorway asking us to give his love to the kids, it was there in her eyes, at Noe and me with words in our throats. Noe said a prayer as we left; we discuss the new baby and whom she looks like, the swwwweet thing, her Australian mommy and Indian dad, oh the stash within that babe! We share grins, and relief: the preciousness of the cycle of Life; we leave. The road home is quick and easy and thick, if there’s a moon I don’t know it. The air is velvet with night; gratitude clutches my jaws with a sensation I don’t know how to say: pain is under rated, love misunderstood. Life is more than things we make in wedding halls and maternity wards, it begins in new ways all over again in Altars in unlikely places. We take the strands we survive, we start again; we don’t feel all this much to just stop.
A beggar woman pushes her grown daughter in a falling apart wheelchair. A motorist skids, the older woman yells at him, her lips rich with unsaid words. I’m marvelling at the way Love looks: at how all this feels in me, unshed, wordless. There must be reasons we experience the gallons of things we feel. Love is underated, misunderstood. We are scared to love, we are afraid to hug and hold;
but those who Love in the midst of pain, they are the blessed who see God in the Eye of the Storm, these ones who truly know they are loved, by God- This, nothing can take from us, not height nor depth nor nothing.
This time around as the year draws to another Advent and new beginning, I’m grateful for these Gifts with no name, so close to the heart of God.