January without Jane

You likely noticed I fell off this particular wagon and I am here today to explain why. Not that there is any need, nor shame, to either stay upon a wagon one has chosen to ride nor to explain. It was as if, along that pilgrimage, I saw a woman bleeding by the side of the road. To have kept my eyes focused forward, to have remained upon that narrow road would have been to ignore the point of any spiritual practice altogether.

Instead, I offer to you Emily Dickinson this morning, upon my arrival home.

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted opon Earth –

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –

He died a month ago. At that time, I could not get to her, though I felt the pain of that shattering grief from 500 miles away. I got as far as the border between us then, where I walked the river as it flowed, unable to cross into that sacred territory because the test results did not come in time. So, perhaps the January with Jane was merely a detour for a time anyway, from the true journey of soul I was upon.

I heard the poem above, on my drive home a few days ago, listening to a 2-part podcast on the life of Emily Dickinson. It came near the end of the episode, and I shut the podcast off, drove the miles after in silence, considering.  

We had spent our days cleaning the home they had shared, an intimate space, where loved blossomed and scented their lives with the fragrances of laughter and tenderness, joy and compassion. 
Their time together was too brief, cut short by an explosion in his brain. They were the happiest years of her life. Her own shattered heart now is picking up the pieces.

The poem spoke of our days in their home. No, we were not at all putting love away. Rather her deep desire and intent was to attend to the body with care, as one does before a burial, to honor the home that contained the soul of their lives together. Nor did she desire to sweep the memory of him, (nor even the physical reminders of him) from her heart. Rather, with each drawer we opened--- bathroom, kitchen, pantry, coat closet--- memory spilled from those opened spaces, from even the tiniest of containers, until there was indeed a house full of him. Her heart, so contained for those weeks since his death, seemed to explode too, at last shattering to spill its own contents. Oh how very much love had been packed inside that heart. 

How does the heart contain so much? Does it fold things neatly inside, organized on shelves and tucked into corners to make the most of its space? Or does it grow moment by moment, cell by cell laid down and compressed? For when it shatters and spills it seems impossible to sweep it all up, tuck it back inside those hidden chambers, as if its contents, laid bare on the bed to sort through, cannot possibly fit again. All that love with no place to land.

When the heart breaks, it is always hoped that the breaking will be open not asunder. That the only recourse will be for the heart to grow more spacious in order to accommodate sorrow and love in one room.... grief and joy... yesterday and tomorrow....hope and regret. In order, at last, to hold Love Realized ... its room full of fruit from those fragrant blossoms. 

My hands are raw as her heart, today. My tears wiped into the kitchen floor where I knelt. My heart, recognizing itself in the mirror washed clean of its fog, is full too. For a moment, I gaze upon what it holds, much of which I am dimly aware in ordinary time. No, her grief is not mine, my grief feels more akin to empathy today, an empathy deep and wide and flowing for my friend, who is left to pick up the pieces. Her suffering cracks my heart abit more each day. 

May it open wide. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: