Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Michael's Birthday

Today is Michael's birthday. He died in 1999 when he was twenty - by far the most painful thing that has happened in my life. Someone asked this morning if I avoid reminders of him. I don't. I really can't. I think of him, roughly as if he was living on the west coast. It's just maddening that I can't call him or expect him home for the holiday. So, I offer this excerpt from Kipling's essay, Rural Funerals , again.
The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal- every other affliction to forget; but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open- this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude.

Where is the mother who would willingly forget the infant that perished like a blossom from her arms, though every recollection is a pang?

Where is the child that would willingly forget the most tender of parents, though to remember be but to lament?

Who, even in the hour of agony, would forget the friend over whom he mourns?

….No, the love which survives the tomb is one of the noblest attributes of the soul. If it has its woes, it has likewise its delights; and when the overwhelming burst of grief … is softened away into pensive meditation on all that it was in the days of its loveliness- who would root out such a sorrow from the heart? Though it may sometimes throw a passing cloud over the bright hour of gayety, or spread a deeper sadness over the hour of gloom, yet who would exchange it even for the song of pleasure, or the burst of revelry?

Oh, the grave! – the grave!- It buries every error- covers every defect, extinguishes every resentment! From its peaceful bosom spring none but fond regrets and tender recollections.

… the grave of those we loved- what a place for meditation! There it is that we call up in long review the whole history of virtue and gentleness, and the thousand endearments lavished upon us almost unheeded in the daily intercourse of intimacy-

Ay, go to the grave of buried love, and meditate!

Then weave thy chaplet of flowers, and strew the beauties of nature about the grave; console thy broken spirit, if thou canst, with these tender, yet futile tributes of regret; but take warning by the bitterness of this thy contrite affliction over the dead, and henceforth be more faithful and affectionate in the discharge of thy duties to the living.


Belinda said...

It sets strange with me that we are set up to love and care so much for people that ultimately will leave, most unexpectedly. I miss Mike - and yes, even his perennial habit of being late to his own birthday party. Better late than never...

GreenmanTim said...

It is precisely the human capacity to grieve and mourn that humanizes the "other", that allows that deeply inward focus to turn outward as you have done so beautifully here. I may not know, as you so searingly do, the loss of your young adult child, but I know loss in stillbirth and how incomprehensible that can feel to others. Yet we comprehend grief and the act of grieving in others, and in comprehending can find empaty and connection. I find that a comfort.

Charles Lowe said...

This may not be the place for this request but I have been trying to get in contact with Bill Dilger. I served with him in India and have lost contact. Can you send me a mailing address or e-mail address for him or ask him if he would get in touch.
I printed the picture of him in his helmet you published several years ago Many Thanks Chuck Lowe