The following was written in 2012, before I published by first book, and saved as a draft that I haven’t edited since that time…
My experience with death has included a particular type of suffering, watching another die, but some type of magic has been the end result, some witnessing of beauty and…dare I say, divinity of the human. I’m hesitant to say a person can be divine, but I do believe moments of divinity sometimes enter our lives with a shimmer of change, with good results, even if they don’t always remain.
When my grandmother died last year, I experienced the grace that can be present during suffering, the force of holding on alongside letting go. They happen simultaneously–the same way my newborn tightly grips my extended finger while turning her body away from me in order to watch my husband playing peekaboo, and the same way my five-year-old clings to my arm and keeps her legs wrapped around mine under the water while striding out into the deep end. There’s a space to find joy in the act of letting go and moving forward.
Two of my grandparents were released from intense physical suffering at the moment of their deaths. I wonder if, during death, they found anything more than the end to a period of suffering, but I also know that is enough when the time arises. Both of my grandparents died during the end of summer, just around the harvest time.
Upon returning from my recent family vacation to the beach, I found myself, sitting on the back deck, thinking about the harvest. I plan to release my book in the autumn. It’s the harvest, the ending of the growing season, but it’s a beginning as well, a time when we create from the fruits of labor, a time to end the labor (for some, labor a form of suffering) in order to discover nourishment with our new approaches. My family farmed, but I don’t plant fields of crops to harvest and prepare meals. Instead, I write about that…I work on a different sort of harvest.
My granddaddy built furniture as a side job, and mostly, he made tables and lamp holders for family members. He noticed craft and took pride in the different forms of craftsmanship. He was my first example of giving in to his desires in life and refusing to allow others to define what his limitations should be. From him, I learned to make my own way, to be different than my family or anyone expected, and to take risks. From his example, I knew that I had to name my publishing company after his little furniture business, Thorncraft. I wouldn’t allow others in my craft to limit my potential. I would learn and make my own way. My granddaddy’s father left the town where his family’s name dominated the telephone book and moved to another one, where he had no relatives, and stripped tobacco, started a family, and died young. My granddaddy was his only son, and he grew up with a mother who dipped snuff and refused to put a bathroom into her house, choosing the outhouse instead. I was the first to believe that I could go to college and write and teach. I took the doors that opened and never worried about the ones that didn’t, the ones that kept me out due to my lack of connections, my innocence and naivety, and lack of experience. I learned to create it on my own, refusing to be ashamed of my family, my place, and my history. Any perception of lack within those entities is only a perception by those who don’t understand an individual’s happiness.
Maybe there is a magical time of peak ripeness, and many people believe that they can see those moments and that potential fruit better than others. However, we have to take a bite and trust that the fruit is ready, feel our way forward while holding on, while drifting out into the water slowly, and ultimately, alone.
I never published this blog entry, but I think it’s time, 10 years later, even though I have touched on some of these topics in other writings over the years, and especially as I think about death, divinity, letting go, and creativity over the past few years. I won’t finish this, or try to wrap up the metaphors and themes neatly, but I’ll leave it unfinished just as I had it in 2012.