13 June 2012

“to everything, turn, turn, turn”: on mourning (and dancing)

In 1959, Pete Seeger committed to song an almost verbatim rendition of Ecclesiastes 3, a scriptural chapter that bears the title “A Time for Everything.” Three years preceding the penning of Seeger’s song, in a Philadelphia hospital, my mother was born, on December 26, 1956. Just shy of 56 years later, on what I imagine was a cool wet day that paralleled the cold winter day of her birth, my mother passed from this world into eternity.

My mother, Rosita E. House (nee Bradley),
pregnant with my older brother
To everything …

When I was being born, so the story goes, my mother had a hard time, and it got to the point that the doctors asked that seemingly impossible question of my parents: your life, or your baby’s. My dad always says my mom was adamant: that I would live, no matter what. At the age of twenty-eight, she decided that it was my time to be born, and to live … even if it meant it was her time to die. She survived me … and twenty-six years later I survive her.

... Turn, turn, turn …

Ecclesiastes, despite what some might consider its more “morose” tone (the word “meaningless” is used 37 times in its twelve chapters), has always been a book I turn to for comfort. In the days and months after learning of my mom’s death, the words of Ecclesiastes’ third chapter were like a balm. To think, of the 30 poetic proverbs, and all 150 psalms, the poem that I find the most comforting in scripture is the one preceded by the words, “This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” There’s a verse six chapters later that urges the addressee of the book to enjoy “all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days” (Eccl. 9:9). I always found this verse both profound and humorous … but suddenly the entire book seemed to me the   book for the mourning process.

...There is a season …

I believe there is a time for everything under the sun. I believe there is a time to weep and a time to laugh (Eccl. 3:4), a time to search and a time to give up (v. 6), a time to be silent and a time to speak (v.7). I believe that I was meant to be born on April 14, 1986. I cannot bring myself to say that I believe my mom was meant to die on September 12, 2011. I cannot say those words. But what I can say is that I believe in life and in death my mother served a grand purpose, that her love endures, as the ache of loss endures, as the balm of healing endures.

... Turn, turn, turn

I love to dance. Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night I put on music—soft, soothing music—and dance, light toes over hard floors, gentle movements, hushed steps. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and think of my mom. Sometimes all I can do is cry. Sometimes the pain is so deep all I can do is sit and let it wash over. Sometimes the pain is so deep all I can do is put on that silly song and toss my body like a leaf in the wind. Sometimes to mourn is to dance. Sometimes an ache is a two-step. Sometimes the rhythm that calls is one, two, three, weep, weep, weep.

Sometimes to heal is simply to turn, turn, turn.


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38 comments:

  1. Oh, Khara ... I have no words. Nothing but a hug, and cyberspace between us.

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  2. Khara, this is beyond beautiful. I'm having an anniversary this week too, and your words are a soothing balm. Thank you.

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  3. Khara, Thank you for sharing these intense emotions. I love your connection between mourning and dancing. That image is soulful and calming. Blessings to you and your family. Dance on.

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  4. Khara - I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. Since I am so close to my own mom, I cannot even imagine the pain you must feel.

    But, there's something else I wanted to say: this post is something that should be read at memorial services - it somehow manages to make a sort of poetic sense of the senseless (or meaningless, if you will.) It creates a way of dealing with that intangible and eternal ache. I can imagine no better eulogy than this 'dance.'

    Last weekend, I actually did go to a memorial service - of amazing woman who always managed to stay positive and strong, even during the worst parts of her terrible illness. For her service, since she knew the end was coming, she chose the music she wanted to be played, and the reading she wanted to be read. She loved poetry. She would have loved this.

    Thank you.

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    1. Thank you, RJ. I am deeply sorry for the loss of your friend; I am also deeply touched by your words, and the connection you've so eloquently placed between these mutual losses.

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  5. Khara: I enjoyed this blog post. I liked how you separated each paragraph by the titles of the song and expressed your sentiments so eloquently. Very good tie-in with the biblical passages and the song. I am very sorry for the loss of your mother. May you find God's comfort in every season.

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    1. Thank you, Amanda. Know that I truly have, and continuously have, been relying deeply and heavily on that very comfort. Your words are peace.

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  7. This one is typo free ;o)

    So these Australia days have re-booted me. Perhaps its the change in temperature, the change in sights and smells but I feel my heart being tenderized and opened up more than normal. Perhaps if I was sitting in Arizona, I would have read this post quickly and when I got to the end, I would have thought, "I need to pray for Khara, so sad." But now, here in this place, unknown and faraway, I'm in awe and fully connected to your feelings of loss. I can't imagine and yet, I know in time, I will feel the same loss. I can't quite articulate how moved I am by this. For now, just know I'm thinking of you and of your mother. Lots of love. xoxo

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    1. Kim, first of all, your words mean so much. I really appreciate it. (Second ... I still cannot believe you are in Australia. I demand a full account as soon as humanly possible, either during your trip or IMMEDIATELY upon your return!!)

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  8. Oh, Khara. This is breathtaking, and heartbreaking, and hopeful.

    "Sometimes to heal is simple to turn, turn, turn." YES.
    You have me in tears this morning at the sheer "brutiful" thing that is life.
    Stunning. Tears and prayers, my friend. Thank you for sharing your heart, and your amazing words.

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    1. Thank you so much, De. I truly appreciate your kind words.

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  9. Khara,
    Oh how I love you! I have never read your blog before (didn't know you had one, but I will be reading from now on) Always in my prayers. Beautifully written, but we already know that you got that 4 strong talent!!!

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    1. Thanks, Kamian! You know I love you back; glad to see you here. 4SBW live on : -)

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  10. Very beautifully written. I cannot imagine the depth of your loss. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Sandy. I appreciate you stopping by (and miss having you stop by my office) : -)

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  11. Really beautiful in the pain and mourning and dancing.
    So hard to lose our moms.
    I love the idea of dancing late at night, when you can't sleep. Makes me think so much of my mother. :)

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    1. Thank you so much. I had no idea this post would inspire so much reminiscence and resonance--but then, I shouldn't be surprised ... we used to call my mom the "connection queen." How beautiful to see she's still at it, in a way :)

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  12. Khara, time for a waltz!
    Seems to me dancing is all about timing. The rhythm and beat of the biblical passage, like life, are so like a dance. What a well-chosen analogy! I will think of this, now, when I think of my own Mother who died many years ago when I was 23, just starting out on my life, it seemed. My Father died 9 years later, just before our eldest child was born. I have tried to share the stories of my parents with the grandchildren they never knew--my daughter & son. When I think of them dancing, I think that they had a unique mix of the two-step and a modified waltz.
    The timing of your post has been so meaningful to other blog readers, I see. It resonated with me as well. It was a week of loss in my family of 4 brothers & 3 sisters. One of my brothers died & it is taking time to process the loss. Reading this blog post has been helpful to gain a perspective on things. So glad you shared this, Khara. Take care & thanks for the dancing tips!

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    1. I am so sorry for your loss, Patricia. I hope you find peace and comfort in what I'm sure is a difficult time. Thank you for sharing your story here, and peace, peace, peace to you.

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  13. The best possible thing a poet can do for a lost loved one is to write them. Memories, dreams, visions, reminders, hymns, elegies, secrets, letters, lies, truths, dialogues, discussions... they all create an entirely separate body that (in my opinion) is the highest kind of honor someone can give. Words are a gift that are meant to be used, and choosing to use them can be an expression of love when other kinds (hugs; phone calls) aren't possible. Of course, it's always nice when you feel comfortable with sharing them, and we're grateful for it; and equally of course, dancing always helps too. :)

    (Did you know we're roughly the same age? I wasn't aware of this before.)

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    1. Thanks for this wonderful remark, Joseph; I love the idea of "writing" our lost loved ones a "new body" ... what a wonderful image. Thanks! (And, I think I had some idea; I remember seeing your "age equation" on your site) :)

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  14. Beautiful post, Khara! You've given words to grief, and that's such a hard emotion to articulate. I'm now five years older than my mother was when she died (many years ago), and she still appears in my dreams. I'm also at the stage of life where I'm keenly aware that the "days are numbered," and it's so important to make every one count! You're already doing that. Very wise; very wise, indeed.

    In the midst of your grief, you've celebrated your mother's life in such a lovely way. She lives on in you--in your vitality, your vivid personality, your talents. Celebrate that, too. Thanks for sharing these words with us.

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  15. not only a perfect tribute to your mom, but a great sentiment, as well. i think some of those thoughts when i watch footloose. those verses are so useful when you need belief. well written and executed but also my sympathies because it's hard when you miss someone that much.

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  16. I love how you have been able to use your words to help with healing. This is a loss I know only too well, and no matter what age we are when our parents are gone, I think we all feel like orphans, to one degree or another. I love Ecclesiastes, and the Psalms too, and have also found in them many healing words. To know that we have a Father who not only invites us to 'throw our burdens on Him', but who knows us so initimately and for so long that His 'eyes saw even the embryo of us, and in [His] book all its parts were down in writing', is comforting in a way that nothing else is. I know that, for me, I miss the presence of my Mum every day, but time, as it turns, turns, turns, has helped ease the initial physical ache, and I now find more that the time for weeping isn't as often, nor as painful as that initial wound. My mother loved to sing and dance, as do I, and she also loved poetry, another gift she shared with me. She would love your writing. I am most certain that your mother was very proud to have such a beautiful daughter, with such a big heart. Thank you for sharing some of your thoughts as you go through the grieving process. I have found a kindred spirit while reading your words, and often find that they too are a soothing balm.

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  17. Thank you, Bolton and Barbara.

    Side note to you, Barbara: Psalm 139, which you quoted in your comment, is of special importance to our family. It was read when (I believe both) my brother and I were being born, and when my grandmother was hospitalized a few years ago, and so many other major events in our family that it's practically our motto!

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  18. Khara,
    Grieving is one of the times when we are most alive. Another time is at a birth. Your piece covers both and is a beautiful tribute to your mother. Mourning is transformative. You are on the path to your transformation and your mom's memory is blessing you in your process.
    Peace and healing,
    Sabra

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  19. Khara - what a love song you have written for your mama and in mourning her in such a joyous way, you honour her so profoundly ... I would love to think when I die my daughters would find comfort by dancing their way back to me (or in any kind of music or art for that matter) - do people tell you how much you look like your Mom? It is uncanny when I look into someone's eyes and see their child looking back out at me but it is also as it should be, I think - a part of the circle. I love what you've written here and will come back and re-read it, I know ... thank you for your generosity of spirit in sharing such a deeply personal part of yourself. It's very good to know you.

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    1. It's funny, it used to be that everyone would tell me I looked just like my dad. Now it's more and more frequently my mom. Sometimes I feel a little like Harry Potter ... :)

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  20. This is lovely. Expressively loyal to your mother and to poetry.

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    1. Thank you, Janice! Greatly appreciated.

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  21. I don't really have any words for this, but I just wanted to make sure you know how beautiful I think this post is. Thank you.

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