and weave new threads to mend
The rent of our bereavement.
Not just through liturgy
But also by these formal yet essential rites
We are patched and made whole again"--from "Wake", by Dorothy McLaughlin
Last night I packaged sea shells without the benefit of a science fiction novel. My reading strayed into non-fiction, but I plan to restore myself to the path of story again soon. I think, sometimes, that sharing compassion and stories is all we really have. In some circles, story telling is seen as a form of glorified needlework, perhaps ornate and interesting in spots, but ultimately outmoded in favor of something less coherent, more elusive. Count me among those who like the pattern of a good woven story.
Two common themes in stories are the themes of loss and the rediscovery of hope. Grief erects caverns, dark places for which words are required. Hope is the light that leads one out. Some practical folks say that merely saying "I will be happy" will install happiness into oneself, like putting a "D" battery into a robot toy. I find that hope sometimes requires a more complex procedure.
I like the "light bulb" feeling when a novel helps me connect with a way of perceiving reality--and suddenly, things frustrate me a bit less than they did before. I even like the feeling when I throw a novel against the wall, because the thinking seems to me so flawed. I remind myself that I learn as I go, and neither I nor the author has learned it all.
Dororthy McLaughlin wrote a poem, a portion of which I quote above. Its opening line is "death's mindless claw has torn the fabric of our lives". I think it's a good poem, with good images, and yet to the point. For myself, I prefer my poetry not to dawdle unnecesarily, although I recognize that it is in the very leisure of the journey that the poem shows itself.
I think that I agree with Ms. McLaughlin that the stories we tell help with the grief--we patch the quilt, over and over, and soon the patches look completely different, but it is still the same quilt.
It's the same quilt even if every fabric has been substituted.
That's part of the circle and part of the ritual. We keep replacing and rebuilding, and it's very important not to stop. The eulogy is in the quilting needles, and the weave is more important than the words you sew into the pattern.