Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An Offering of Feelings for Violette and Tracey

I wrote this for Tracey the day that Violette died. It's much more raw than the letters that I later wrote for Violette. But I wanted to share it here, too, so that I have a record of this week, that when I look back, I see more of what it was.

Here we go:

I am heartbroken. I don’t know what to say. I’m trying, and I beg you not to be offended. I will write more. I will find a way to say the happy things I’m sure you want to be said. But I cannot do that right now. This is all I can do:

Two songs were in my head when I woke up this morning. They were songs that I played back in the 5th or 6th grade. One of them was in jazz band, called “Traces.” One of them was in concert band called “Elegy for a Rose.” I thought about those songs for a while; both melancholy, both somehow significant. I couldn’t figure out why songs from 20 years ago that I’ve never heard except when playing would be swirling around in my head.

It sounds really stupid for me to act like the titles of these songs were somehow psychic. You have to change them, after all, to make them make sense—add a Y, change a flower. But it is also stupid to imagine that someone that I know could feel so much pain and that I would be oblivious to it. It’s foolish to think that somehow each of us didn’t already feel it somewhere. I’m so, so sorry, Tracey.

Elegy for Violette

Whose quicksilver toes not quite

Cleared the whirring edge of night

When you called me, this passage went through my head. It’s from a poem that my grandmother shared with me about a daughter’s passing away. I don’t remember who wrote it. It’s just my first thought, the rawness of the moment, the shock, the numbness.

There’s nothing to say. I’ve been asked to try. I’ll speak around things. I’ll make outlines of words, paint the emptiness between the leaves to show a tree. I’ll try:

Every moment in life is filled. Sounds, music, wind blowing, laughing, meetings, partings, touching. From time to time, it’s possible to see that what fills these every moments all points in the same direction. That everything in your life causes you to drift in the direction of something. And when it’s found, you can see that it’s not so much that it’s the meaning of your life, or the most important thing in your life, but it is your life.

When I met my daughters, the world stood still. There are not words for this, it’s beyond words. It is the only singularity that can happen more than once; every time a child is born. The fabric of the universe is transcended. There is nothing there but you and that baby. And people say “perfect” far too often for the word to retain enough power to describe that moment, that child, that forever purpose that you feel.

Violette. She bloomed just for you.

There isn’t really a good definition of love. I’ve read so many. I’ve seen how writers and filmmakers try and portray the feeling. But they scratch the surface. And you and I both know that, Tracey, because we’ve felt what it’s like. We’ve been there when the baby has been born, when the Earth shook; that is the time when everything else in the world lost its meaning, only love gained a meaning, became defined.

That’s the moment that you realize you never should have said “perfect” before. You never should have said “love” before. You didn’t understand what it was that those words pointed to. What every moment of your life pointed to. You and your husband knew love, but not in the same way. You chose your husband, he chose you. But it becomes refined, perfected, and ethereal and you create something that is so much more than what you are.

And my god, Tracey.

My god. Every bit as wonderful, as perfect, as holy as that moment was. This moment is not. It is the reverse. The negative image. Opposite is too light of a word. Pain is too friendly an emotion. I can’t imagine. I’ll be honest with you—I don’t want to imagine, Tracy, what you’ve gone through, what you’re going through.

I can’t imagine the emptiness in your arms.

A parent’s love for their daughter is immortal. The love between the two of you will remain as tangible and solid as it ever was. The time you had together will forever still be there. Wherever you are, it’s still there. It’s a moment beyond time that you can visit any time you need to. And you know that because you were there not long ago and you know what I’m talking about.

You called me twice in your life Tracey. Once when the doors swung wide and she came into this world. Once when the door shut behind her. With the door closed, that light doesn’t come in. The room is darker. My god, it’s darker.

You called me this time, under these circumstances, and asked me to say something. To write something. And I am too pained to imagine being flattered. But I am so scared to disappoint with what I write. I don’t know if I can do exactly what you ask of me. Instead you have this. It wonders around between the light and the dark, the love and the loss. And I’m afraid I just can’t separate those things. I wanted, Tracey, really wanted to write something that would make your spirit soar, would make your heart glad, would put the proper value on the miracle of life that is your daughter.

But the world is crippled without her. What can I possibly do? What kind of hubris would I display to act like I could make something happy right now? The world is a worse place. And as dark and terrible as this fact is, its opposite is also true: it is a better place for having had her; she made the world a better place. And that can’t be undone.

Be with your family. Shut nothing out. Your children will know that you and your husband have changed. But so has the world.

She would wake up before you. And when you opened your eyes, she would giggle, surprised and delighted that you decided to join the day with her.

Her smile. Her voice. Her hair. Her touch. Her smell. Her breath. These are for you to keep. No one else will ever know them the way you do. They are her gift to you, Tracey. Keep them and treasure them. She will giggle next time you join her and it will be a familiar sound.


bryan said...

i can't stop thinking of them, and i can't even begin to wrap my head around what they are going through. i read tracey's posts about the preparations and try to equate them to the pictures of violette she posted only days ago and there is no connection.


tillytoo9 said...

So sorry to hear of this tragedy...I''m going to go kiss my children in bed, say a prayer of gratitude and ask for strength for your friends. It sounds like they have a good support system; your words convey that.

The name Violette is beautiful.