It has been almost two months since my Aunt Dora passed. What would have been her 103 birthday on June 8th is approaching both quickly and slowly. I return to my once-regular life in bits and pieces: yoga classes, writing and poetry readings.
Even though I used to go to yoga classes three times a week, it took me a while to return after my aunt died. The first time I got close, I walked past the many gardens in our neighborhood. The peonies, irises, and gingko buds were too much for me in the damp spring air. There was so much life blooming in the blurry fog of morning. Beauty without my aunt seemed wrong. I started to cry and turned back towards home.
When I eventually did feel strong enough to return, I was reminded to “honor the present,” as I was in March. I blogged about that then, before my aunt passed, but after others had.This return to my own body, after helping to physically care for my aunt on her hospice bed, was necessary. It had been hard to even shower or pull on socks, thinking of mortality. I did cry when I returned home, but it was a more cleansing and less fearful cry.
Since Aunt Dora fell ill in late March, I’ve been writing countless lyric and prose poems about the experience. I’ve re-read the letters that I wrote to her and written her new ones. These poems, therapeutic and personal, may or may not be edited for publication. The important thing is that I continue to find my voice and actively sort through the mysteries of this life. It has been easy – necessary, I’d add - to write, but not easy to edit or share the work. Sometimes I cry when I write and sometimes I don’t. I can divulge, and then delete, thoughts that need to be exhumed.
Other people’s work, however, hasn’t been easy to approach. I fear the beauty and truth in their work that will cause the stone of grief to drop back into my stomach. I am torn between wanting to remember every detail about my aunt and her dying while also wanting to forget. One day, I hope, I will find a medium between the two.
Attending Robert Hass’ reading at the Folger wasn’t easy. I was very aware of the fact that it was my first poetry reading since my aunt passed. While my aunt rarely read poetry and perhaps never attended a poetry reading where I wasn’t featured (she was so supportive!), the beauty, and attention to the present inherent in true art is daunting to me. Hass’ gentle translations, insight into our species’ and planet’s mortality did catch my breath at times.
And I held it in. Absorbing the beauty. We need the beauty and truth in art to heal. It isn’t easy and it cannot be rushed. But it can happen.