There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 159–167
And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
Love is stronger than death
The day he died spring was unfolding gently on the face of the earth; leaves unfolding from the trees in the kind of new green that erases all thought of the deadness of winter. It seemed a contradiction of the life springing all around her that he should be dead, he so full of life, life that left him in the night while the world slept, left quietly, with no trace that he had ever walked in the green grass under the leaves of the trees in springtime. There, then gone. A blink. She reeled. The world seemed topsy-turvy –all at once vertigo hit her and screams erupted from her that seemed to come from hell and tear apart eternity.
It could have been that he stood next to her, that screams of grief can indeed rip the fabric of all we know, to filter into what lies parallel, to lie at the feet of those we cannot see.
Days later, she was travelling north, to the place she had not been since she was very young, car packed to the gills with the meager possessions she held dear. She had left her husband behind, suddenly seeing past the veneer of the life she had gone on to. None of it was real; she had been playing the part orchestrated for her by expectation. She had not loved the one she married; in the face of death, she suddenly saw what had been real and what had not. This grief was the only real thing in her life now; travelling up Highway 53, inexorably drawn north, to her lake, to the cries of gulls wheeling and dipping atop white capped waves.
Having left all she had behind, all that existed is what lay before; to start again, or not, the way before was as tangled as her hair blown by the wind, and she did not know what to unravel first. She drove on, the mile markers whizzing past counting down the miles until she would have to face herself and death, finality, nothingness.
She did not love the one she married, she who prided herself on verity, on living true, on never being deceiving, to find she had been playing a part cut deeply, and guilt oozed from every pore. What kind of person was she, she wondered to herself, to have lived with a man she did not love? Was she that lonely, that desperate, that faithless? That stupid? While distance to home closed, the distance in her heart widened to an unfathomable abyss.
She had gone on. She had accepted long ago that it would never be, she had flown round the world; running, really, from this thing that had sneaked up on her, and was too big to reach around, this love, she too young, he too old, the distance that was really no distance at all.
He sat next to her in the car looking out the window, feeling her pain and bewilderment, like knives. He reached across and touched the hand that lay in her lap, to let her know he was there.
She felt something on her hand, a sort of energy that felt like static electricity. The sensation made her jerk her hand back up to the steering wheel, and it also made her think of him. There was no way, of course, no way. He was just…gone. That was all. When you’re dead, you’re dead, she thought, you disappear. A tear slipped down her cheek.
Remembering Rilke, and feeling the keenness of her doubt, feeling invisible, he recited softly, How shall I hold on to my soul, so that it does not touch yours?
Still driving, the cab dimly lit by the green dash light, she found herself reciting aloud the final line How shall I lift it gently up over you on to other things? She realized that perhaps, even, with this death, that she had stopped believing in God. Perhaps now, she believed in nothing. There was only emptiness, and the sky above contained no God, only stars, and atmosphere, and more empty space beyond. What was there, she mused, to have faith in, exactly?
Then, seeing the lights on the hill ahead of her, she resolved to find out what “moving on” would come to mean. Lifting my soul gently up over you on to other things. She didn’t know why that line had gone through her head. She thought about what it meant. Forgetting, she supposed. Forgetting, wound healing, scabbing over, another layer of stone, a hardening. And that was the very thing she did not want most in all of the world. She did not want to forget . Forgetting would mean he meant nothing to her at all if she could forget him in the healing. No, she would not heal if forgetting would be the result. Her mind went back to the unanswerable question: what happens when you die?” Becoming angry at the question she opened the window, turned up the rock music on the radio, and forced herself back to reality. He was gone, that was all.
Sighing, sensing the wall between them, he wished to leave the car, and suddenly he was not there, but sitting along the shores of the great inland sea, wondering if he would ever be able to move on without her.
(part 2 tomorrow, then weekly from here!) If you like it please feel free to comment! I need help finding a better title so if you have suggestions please comment!