I suspect there is often a child in a family who is able to escape the confines of the worst kind of restrictive life. Perhaps just getting away from people who have squeezed the vision of possibilities into a speck is beyond our power to appreciate, especially at the moment when we leave their world behind. It is a moment when the air rushes into the lungs and the body can fully breathe. We must shed them and slough off our old skins if we are to become more ourselves.
Fortune sent that woman spirit my way over a circuitous and painful journey, a path that cut her bare feet but gave her the powerful voice that can set the world back on balance. She is now on a journey back into that restrictive world of her childhood to search for answers to what did not have to be.
I was reading recently from a study that claimed that most of us only enjoy three or four legitimate loves in our long and happy lives. That got me busy counting right away. My tally totaled three, all good women with straight backs, clear eyes, and their hand on the wheel. I lost two, one due to carelessness on my part, the other just looked up at me one day from the bed and said, “Dying is not easy” before closing her eyes.
When those eyes closed, I thought mine had, too.
But years later I finally learned that my time was not yet up. Clues were scarce and often misleading, but for whatever reason, I learned to smile again. And then this incredible gift fell from the sky before me. She had learned to breathe deeply sometime earlier and had ducked what would have felled most others. She swirled into my world with an open promise and no threat of change to come. She simply gave me her hand and asked if I would walk with her. My third try was my reward for some deed done in another life perhaps, a prize for something unimaginable that made me worthy of such grace.
Sometime in the mid 1990s my daughter had bought me a gag gift we had seen in a window along a side street in Annapolis where she had studied The Great Books at St Johns. I couldn’t help but chuckle when I spotted the squat little clay pot with the inscription, “Ashes of Old Loves.” I like to think the memories of those first two spirits that once graced my life now lie with full honors in that hallowed pot and have blessed me with this new transformation in my being.
My dear one today, in these cold moments of winter, sadly has been on a terrible journey into another time, as well as place, to say goodbye to the first of her siblings to slip away. Her trip came on us unexpectedly and with no warning. Her sibling had chosen a wayward life and been led into a twisted religion that proscribes against medicine in favor of prayer alone. In so doing, he had surrounded himself with lesser beings without the power of thought or speech. They had learned the beginnings of primitive sounds that could potentially have been keys for them. But they didn’t see the doors where the keys fit. In the end, the keys only served as sticks to stir whatever they drank as they stared blankly into what only they could see. Their clouded minds closed their eyes and refused anything beyond the dark basement corners they preferred. There was no blue sky, no light for them.
When her sibling cried out in pain and wrinkled as though an evil spirit had touched him with the age of his grandfather, he yellowed before her eyes as certain body parts began to surrender and to choose no longer to be team players. His underlings and servants still donned their ready masks and were joyed to pretend to see him still as the strong knight he told them he remained. But his voice was nearly gone and they simply heard what they chose to hear.
The dear one cannot bring him back to health, nor can she restore him to life. The one who was once her protector as well as her tease has chosen to leave, as though it is his choice alone. But he is haggard and weary with pain that coughs up “Oh, my god” as he grimaces and proclaims that all’s well and not to worry since he’s fine. His blind attendants applaud him and sing on.
I strain to will her back quickly. She cannot overstay this last visit. She must return from the cold country before her heart can be chilled much more. He is bound for his idea of Glory and there’s no calling him back. He doesn’t want to know that he will be a long time gone. She can do no more than weep.