Dirge Without Music
by Edna St. Vincent MillayI am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
Papaw passed away quietly, in his sleep, on February 18.
And yet ... there are still dishes to be washed. Hair to be brushed. Owies to be kissed. Potatoes to be peeled. Diapers to be changed.
How the world has kept turning these last, long days I am unsure. A part of me still thinks it's a mistake-- that at any moment I will awaken. The phone will ring and it will be his voice on the other end of the line. His old voice, restored. Strong. Confident. Slightly mischievous, as if just the mere act of having a conversation holds the promise of an adventure worth having.
But he's gone. I saw him laid out, thin white hair swept to the side in a way he never wore it in life. His glasses, which rode impossibly low on his nose these past few years, were missing. Gone, too, was the ancient, wind-up watch, its face scarred by years of winding fencing, tagging cattle, and baling hay. Instead, he wore his Sunday best-- the pale blue button-up he loathed, the navy pants he couldn't wait to shed the minute he walked in his own front door.
When I found out that I was pregnant-- nearly a year ago now-- I wondered at God's timing. Today, I understand. Reuven, named for my Papaw, has somehow cushioned a blow from which I'm not sure I could have endured without the strange, filling consolation of full arms. No matter how much I want to, I cannot retreat to my room and shut out the world. I cannot isolate myself. I cannot cease to function.
I am needed.
I must be present.
And so I walk through my days not only with pain, but with joy. My grandfather is dead. Seven is singing "Over in the Meadow." My grandfather is dead. Logan is baking cookies. My grandfather is dead. Reuven is smiling. My grandfather is dead. Oliver drew a sun. My grandfather is dead. Mani is pretending to be a fireman. My grandfather is dead. And me? I am alive.