Friday, April 15, 2011

Soft Butter

The knife slips through the soft butter in the ceramic dish on our kitchen counter.  It’s been just warm enough, just long enough, for the “room temperature” to rise from the upper 60’s to nearly mid-70 and the butter has softened noticeably.  We eat enough buttered toast to leave the butter out.  There is no risk of it ever going rancid even in the warmest summer days when room temperature is closer to 78.

Today our soft butter transports me in time to when last it was this soft, sometime last summer when our grief was so near the surface that the softest of breezes would set it afire like a bellows would a kiln.

Now last summer‘s anguish echoes as the waves of grief softly reverberate back through us, each time slightly less than the last, but still there, until it settles into the forever background noise of our lives.  With both hands I lean against the counter, head down. Tears fill my eyes, yet I do not cry like I would have, easily, just a few months ago.

I inhale deeply, then exhale.  I spread the soft butter on the toast then sprinkle one with cinnamon and sugar then spread another with strawberry jam and call the boys to breakfast.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Holding Smoke

There was a time, when driving to work, say, I’d hear a story on the local talk radio about some tragedy. A fire, or accident, or a murder, and my mind would wander to disturbing and horrible fantasies. What if that happened to me? What would I do? Could I get on with life?

Then I’d shake the thoughts out of my head – ludicrous. “John, you can’t obsess like that,” the little voice scolded, then continued, “you can’t dwell on such low probability events - just live life.” I’d change the station and drive on.

And then it happened. And reality slowly answers the questions posed by that horrible fantasy.

I don’t listen to the news so much anymore. But news still finds me. And when it finds me, I don’t wonder “what if.” I wonder “when.” When will death come?

This may seem fatalistic and dark, perhaps depressing. But as I reflect on it, I'm not depressed. It's more a resignation, perhaps a vague shadow of acceptance. Maybe.

Life and death: Without one, the other ceases; with one, the other is guaranteed. And approaching a year since Amy’s death, it’s unfamiliarity and abstractness seem only to grown with my own mortality coming into view. Finding a meaning in this life, and in my death, feels both more urgent and destined to folly.

Thousands of years of many religions and countless philosophers wrestling with this paradox comforts me. Some. And though some may find solace in some definiteness from those sources, more often I hold my comprehension of life and death like smoke.