Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Here I am


I still don’t own a cell phone, or whatever they’re called these days. The first time I laid hands on a computer, I was thirty-seven years old. I didn’t venture online until I was forty-five.

All through my growing-up years and well beyond, everyone I knew, I knew in person; and those I didn’t know personally, I knew by sight. When we met on the sidewalk, whether or not words were exchanged we acknowledged each other with a smile or nod. Such was life in my hometown.

Now I am fifty-seven. And while my existence is seldom acknowledged on the sidewalk, I am as ready as ever to look others in the eye, and to let them know that I know they are there. It’s a matter of common courtesy — and I mean that in the profoundest sense, because each day, each opportunity, could be our last.

These thoughts I trace to my mother’s passing — as I can most every other thought I’ve had, and action I’ve taken, these past few days. The day after she died, I was surprised once to realize that it had been only a day — so much I had done, and so many miles I’d traveled in my mind. It felt, without exaggeration, like a month. I had to stop and look at the calendar.

I know this scenario will be familiar to some, while others will grasp it through different avenues of their experience. But I think everyone will understand a dream I had last night, in which I dialed my mother on an old rotary telephone, and heard her laughing on the other end and saying she had company and was wondering what she should cook for them. For some odd reason I said, “Cabbage?” and with that the line went dead. When I was sure our connection was broken, I thought it best to go directly to her. But the way was difficult, through old buildings and along high railings and cliffs. Finally, in an elevator, my eyes opened and there the dream came to an end — except for the part of it where I now say, “Here I am.”

I’ve written her obituary. I’ve written a eulogy. I’ve composed a short ineffective verse for her little service booklet. I’ve made numerous calls, sent countless emails, signed papers, and spoken with helpful strangers. All that remains is a long out-of-state drive and her funeral — except, again, for the part where I look up and say, “Here I am.”

And I am just one of her sons, just one member of the immediate family. Each of us has traversed these last few days alone, together, while giving help and attending to details.

It’s beautiful, very much as it should be and must be. For, as my mother’s dear friend and mine, Kahlil Gibran, once said, The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. And indeed, this has been my experience going back a great many years.

May it also be yours — and I say that with all love and affection, and stand by you whatever your loss, joy, or travail may be.



19 comments:

Anthony Duce said...

Sorry for your loss... Wonderful writing..

Two Tigers said...

This was an amazing piece of writing - and piece of William - to share. I felt my heart and mind saying "yes, yes, yes!" at so many points along the journey. For it felt like a journey, two minutes of reading that could have been one of those conversations that start after dinner and end at sunrise. I'd wish you strength and wisdom and peace in the days ahead, but you have all of these and more, my friend. I envy those you pass on the street and acknowledge with a smile. I am smiling back, virtually.

William Michaelian said...

Anthony, thanks very much.

Gabriella, you are living proof that friendship knows no bounds. I would hate to think of this online experience without you.

Brad C. Thome said...

Amen my friend...

:)

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Brad. My best to you and Kiki.

-K- said...

I don't know what to say except this was the most quiet piece of writing I've read in months.

William Michaelian said...

I guess the quiet is inevitable. Thanks for reading it, Kevin.

Stream Source said...

I sense you had a beautiful relationship with your mom. I'm sorry for your loss. The grieving never really ends, but it fades.

My mother still breathes but, for the most part, she is gone.

Death comes too quickly for some and not fast enough for others.

I enjoyed this, thank you. And thanks for standing by.

William Michaelian said...

Donna, you’re right, Mom and I were great life-long friends.

I thank you, and will be, as I have been, thinking about you and yours.

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Dear friend William:

I lost my Mom in ’88, my Dad in ’94 and my only sibling, my big brother, in ’05. I understand your pain.

I just wanted to share this poem with you.

Gary



Hardwood


I rise each day and find these trees
stand exactly where they did the day before,
stood unafraid in a darkened wood
through the cold and empty hours
to welcome in a new day’s pearly light.
But each day, it seems, I also find another
who has ventured past that unseen door,
has left us, we can only pray,
for something good and something more
and something less than standing through the night.

Proud these trees stood still when we returned
from the solemn procession and burial,
on a day of tears and a last goodbye, of dying flowers,
the lifting of a polished hardwood casket.
And though weary when returning from the funeral,
I take time tonight to walk beside the wood
and of these hardwood trees and life I ask it:
where stand and how grow until the day it’s I
who, dressed in hardwood, awaits a morning bright?

Copyright 2008 – HARDWOOD: 77 Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

William Michaelian said...

Beautiful, Gary. Thank you.

Stickup Artist said...

I've taken this journey many times, and will again. I am honored to take the journey with you, here. You've added peace and a new dimension to my experience.

William Michaelian said...

The feeling goes both ways. Thank you, Stickup Artist.

Lon said...

I'm sorry to hear about your loss, I've lost my parents several years ago.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks very much, Lon. I appreciate your visit, and your kind words here.

Jan said...

William, this is so beautifully written with the feelings of shared emotions that I, if I could have, would have written when my mother passed away, almost 20 years ago.

I wrote a poem in 2007 for my mom that I would like to share here with you...

My Mom...

You gave me life then cared for me
and through the years I grew.
A toddler, teen and in the end, a woman just like you.
You told me that I would always be that little child you had.
Then came the day you passed away and that little child grew sad.
The ache, the pain, the days of tears as my memories went back through so many years.
I miss you mom, I always will.
But in my child like heart you live here still.
Through photos and memories I think of you each day.
And in my child like heart you will always stay~~~



William Michaelian said...

I love it, Jan. Thank you.

erin said...

what words? only a bird in my throat. and I think, one in my chest too))))

xo
erin

William Michaelian said...

That’s where they dwell, Erin; that’s where they thrive.