Monday, October 06, 2008

The Passing

I did not and do not believe that the dead, that the long dead and disintegrated Shmiel and Frydka somehow reached out from the ether and pointed us, that day, to Beolekhiv and then Stephan and then Prokopiv and then the house and then the women and then the hiding place, the hole in the ground, the awful box, where they had once cowered in the cold and failed, finally at their bid for survival.  
But I do believe in some things.  I, to whom a friend had listened, quietly and sometimes in tears, one night in September 2001, when I’d just returned from our first trip to Ukraine and was telling the story of what we’d found there after all that time; had listened to me weeping and finally said, I’m crying because my grandfather died two years ago and now it’s too late to ask him anything; I did and do believe, after all that I’ve seen and done, that if you project yourself in to the mass of things, if you look for things, if you search, you will, by the very act of searching, make something happen that would not otherwise have happened, you will find something, even something small, something that will certainly be more than if you hadn’t gone looking in the first place, if you hadn’t asked your grandfather anything at all.  
I had finally learned the lesson taught me, years after they’d died, by Minnie Spieler and Herman the Barber.  There are no miracles, no magical coincidences.  There is only looking, and finally seeing, what was always there.

I am home sick today.

I spent most of the day in bed finishing Daniel Mendelsohn’s book revealing what he learned when he searched for the truth about six lost relatives.

I found it a little bit ironic to be reading about the dead, The Lost, today of all days.


There is a place in the book where the author’s mother reminds him of the day his own grandmother died.

After a long day at her hospital bedside, they finally decided to leave and were in the hospital lobby when something made his mother decide to turn back, to “look at Nana one more time.”

When they returned, a nurse told them that she had just died.

“And I went in the room and I went on my knees by the bed and I said, Mama, Mama, don’t leave me, don’t leave me, I still need you.”  

I was reminded of myself, one year ago today, holding my grandmother's hand in her darkened hospital room crowded with machinery.

Her delicate fingertips  seemed to be the only part of her left unbroken.

The memory of holding her hand strangely also symbolizes the way the whole day, and the whole year, really, was a struggle with holding on and letting go.

Holding on and letting go, clutch and release...

It’s been like walking in circles, while still moving forward.

A kind of progression I suppose.

I was struck when Mendelsohn’s book brought up the idea of being guided to the truth by the dead.

Though the author was less inclined to think so, over the last year I have been willing to believe in the presence of my grandmother – and also my grandfather- guiding me, helping me heal.


Last night driving home after dark, following an exhausting but good day with the children, I closed my eyes and there they were in their living room.

I was getting ready to leave their house after a visit… not any specific visit, any visit, as all visits to their house ended this way...

I would hug them both and then they would stand on the stoop and wave as I drove away.

Last night I could feel my grandmother’s arms around me. 

I could physically remember her, the touch of her, the feeling of her embrace.

When she pulled away, I said,

“No.  Hold me a moment longer.  I can feel you.”

So she did.

In my minds eye, I saw them waving as I drove away and I kept on, I keep on looking back and yet, I carry on also moving forward.

22 comments:

Not Hannah said...

What a lovely gift you were given last night. Thanks for sharing it with us. (I think I've actually made this exact same comment before. Hm.)

yummysushipajamas said...

You have been heavy on my mind today, knowing that your loss came so close before my own. I am happy to hear peace in your words here, and I so much admire your strength. I know your sweet grandmother is watching over you now, as always, and I hope she stays especially close to make the passing of these next few days go a bit easier for you and your family.

A said...

How lovely and thought-provoking. Thank you.

SUEB0B said...

Oh, girl you are making me cry. That is some good writing - thank for telling your story.

QT said...

Oh Jess. This was beautiful. Sometimes I can still feel my grandmother's hand on my forehead, brushing my hair out of my face before she would kiss me.

Sayre said...

This year has been a long journey for you, hasn't it? I read you every day and some days I cry with you and others I laugh, but I've noticed in the last month, a lightening of your writing, like a dark cloud has finally moved off and let the sunshine back in.

I know her leaving still hurts, but take comfort in knowing that she is still here.

((hugs))

K2 said...

You were indeed given a gift, how wonderful and how beautifully experienced and expressed. I too feel my mother all around me at times and cherish those times. Thanks for sharing.

Patois said...

You prompt me to listen and feel what and who is around me more carefully. Beautiful. Soulful.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

Lovely post.

Omaha Mama said...

What a year. I'm so glad you got a little visit.

LSM said...

I'm sorry you're sick, but thanks for sharing such a beautiful story with us.

Little Monkies said...

Oh, she is proud of you.

Love you.

furiousBall said...

I hope you feel better. if you get chilly, fart under the blankets.

And in all seriousness, fart under the blankets.

No, seriously - my one year anniversary of my Dad's passing is several months away still, but yeah, that's going to be a tough day.

moe berg said...

as someone who was by his mother's side when she died 3 weeks ago, i can tell you i learned more about life and love in her final hours and during my first few days without her than i ever hoped to know.

this was a beautiful post.

GoteeMan said...

Precious... wonderful post...

J/ (goteeman.blogspot.com)

Lotta said...

Thinking of you today.

followthatdog said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you. I swear there are days that I feel my great aunt's presence with me.

LaskiGal said...

After everyone had left the room, after my FIL passed, I stayed. I held his hand in mine.

I couldn't let go. I wanted to remember his hands. The way they looked. They way they felt. They were still warm and soft.

I watched silent tears fall on his hands . . .

I wiped my tears. Stood up straight. And walked out of the room. The image and feel of those hands were burned forever in my memory.

As you can see . . . I so felt this post.

Beautiful.

Vodka Mom said...

that was a very lovely post. She IS with you. Every day...

Cordy said...

Oh gosh. This is beautiful. It made me cry and think of my grandpa, who passed away about six months ago. I wish I could feel him like that.

Thanks so much for sharing it.

Ben and Bennie said...

Jessica, they really are there. I truly believe it. Through my son I have come to accept that our loved ones that have passed beyond this life are helping us along in our journeys. Embrace them when you can.

All Rileyed Up said...

My grandmother passed away earlier this year and is still on my thoughts. Coincidentally, I wrote about her death (and thoughts on death in general) on my blog today too because a friend lost her fatehr unexpectedly. My best to you. I'm glad she stayed with a little while longer.