I was stirring something. Her voice struck me so intently I still don't remember what I stirred. CBC Radio rose from the background to rendering me incapable of registering anything else. My hand moved slower and slower until I just stood rapt at the stove, listening.
Listen first to her laugh. Then to her words, which yanked on me as the words of someone who knows sadness, yet sweetness.
As it turns out, Lhasa De Sela did indeed have intimacy with those two things, that exquisite pain. The beloved girl of Montreal died seventeen days ago, lost at my very age to breast cancer.
Do you ever see the face of a person that's died, or hear a voice, and feel it's just impossible and absurd and unbelievable that gone is gone? How can it be? She was here, a girl just like me. There she is, her imprint on video. Yet now, there's no other voice in the world that sounds like hers.
Some Old Testament scholars, wrote Janel, define "lament" as the reaction to a belief-shattering experience. Bon's contemplations on this idea turned in the same direction as mine. In her comment she wrote my beliefs were vague enough so as to be enhanced rather than shattered by the experience. A void begs to be filled. That filling is my lament. I formed brand-new beliefs based on what I saw, felt, sensed in the NICU.
Does that mean I'm reconciled to what happens when we die? Good god, no. In the dedication to my book I had to find a tidy way of acknowledging that I have two boys but three, and it's a fantastical book about rampaging wood pirates, so I thought I'll just make up the truth and so I did.
For my three boys—one is all energy and marvel and curiosity, one is pure, sheer joy and wanderlust, and one lives high up in a blue sky, in a roofless, sheepskin-draped room with kind minstrels and acrobats that let him stay up late and eat chocolate by starlight.
I choose the bits and the pieces that muffle the ache. I try, so hard, to remember the presence in the room the day he died. Even if I don't understand our ends, I do my best to not lose the sensation of our means. It was with us, this energy, this palpable love. And when he stopped breathing, finally... that's the one moment that escapes words completely. Articulating the peace and the joy—of him, of the thing that took him—when I felt his weight lifted off my chest. I fumble with it. I stammer. I can never possibly.
What I heard on CBC yesterday in this ethereal, butterscotch voice was divine and sensible at the same time. It's the closest I've ever come to finding a shape for what I felt that day.
Because what I felt? It wasn't an ending. It made me wrack and sob because I couldn't go with him, but still. For him, it was another beginning.
Boil some water. Make some tea. Sit down, and listen to Lhasa speak of her philosopher father and his storytelling of what happens when we die. And in your own way, send some love into the air for her. And then tell me: what do the words 'beginning' and 'ending' mean for you?