A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

October! ....and the Unplumbable Depth of Grief

Although I am a friend to anyone who wishes it, I am no one's son, no one's brother, no one's husband, no one's father, and no one's uncle. Since the 20th century, and the death of my parents, I have been stripped entirely of all the most obvious social and familial relations. It's still a strange feeling to be merely me, and nothing else--rather like dropping in to visit from Mars.

I used to love October. The first day with cool crisp, dry air, unfathomably clear blue skys, and blazing hot sunshine has always been, as my stars incline, a summons to new adventure. So many hopeful changes, all of which were fun, but none permanent, began for me in October. So many adventures and journeys started with that crisp dry air. And so many gipsy days, owning little and travelling fast, took place under those clear skys.

That first crisp, cool-aired day came today--a day early. But now it is the first messenger of a vivid grief that matured when the leaves were golden six years ago, just before they fell. The grief of officially identifying my father's body, with the deep bruises of the unsuccessful reviving shocks still livid on his chest, for the funeral director.

What I said, as I recall it, was, "That, indeed, is William Marshall." No more. And me and my iron willed mother moved on to the room with the tufted leather chairs, the elaborate smell of floral perfume, and the faint organ music in the background where we signed all the dreary papers necessary for the disposal of the body.

We went to buy the niche for their ashes the same day, in the old city cemetary glorious with fall hues and within eyeshot of the Emergency Room where my father died, and the nursing home and hospice where so many of my parents' friends passed through on their way to graves in that very same cemetary.

Thirteen months later, the first of the strokes felled my mother and tossed her down the basement stairs. I still walk down them, once a week, to do laundry.

She was alone. By main force of will she dragged herself up to the living room chair, where I found her, groggy, the next morning. I had not planned to come over, but stopped on impulse.

She and I went through the agonizing routine from the hospital to the nursing home and back again. She endured stroke after stroke, losing more function at every turn, until her final days, six weeks later, in the hospice.

She was terrified of the coming New Millenium, of all the stories that the computers were going to crash and foul up the entire world. And she finally died somewhere between the last hour of 1999 and the first hour of 2000, as the hoopla and firecrackers and music stuttered out of the ever running television in the hospice room.

And then I had to go through the whole process again: identifying the body, signing the papers in the same funeral home, and consigning her ashes to the same niche within eyeshot of all the scenes of the drama.

I am still the student of fine spiritual teachers. You can read about them here, here, and here. But I see them generally only once or twice a year, and one of them, the most important, I haven't seen for a number of lifetimes (which I DON'T, by the way, remember at all--to forstall needless questions) and am looking forward to renewing the connection which I presume was once there.

He is an extraordinary young fellow who was escaping from Tibet to India as my mother died. Word that he had turned up on the Dalai Lama's doorstep came on the evening of my mother's funeral.

Just thinking about all my fine teachers, and particularly His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, uplifts me and eases the burden of grief that I, and all of us, will carry until the development of our insight erases the causes of all griefs for good.

But until that glorious conclusion in whatever lifetime in the future, October will still tease and haunt and taunt me.

Om Mani Padme Hung! Karmapa khyen-no!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

TO: Joseph Marshall
RE: October Grief

Grief can be overcome, if one is not afraid of death in the first place.

The Fall comes to the high country and the land at its feet in a deep bluer than blue sky which causes the turning leaf to stand out all the more. The golden leaves fall upon the lush green grass and stand out like gold coins on the rich green sward.

I look on October for itself. Not for the memory of lost family, and I've lost them all, save for those I have with me now.

Still and all, I do not grieve. I only remember...and...occassionally, hope to see them again, here or there; they do not all sleep.

The months pass. Now, all to quickly. Seems I just paid the monthly bills the other day. And here they are again. The mind slows, but the thoughts still flow along. Old man river carries me towards the tideless crystal sea. No longer the headlong rush in the rapids of my youth, where a quick wit and the hand of God saved me from destruction on so many occassions. Now it is a stately passage between wide banks lined with tall trees and cool shade. Even in this semi-arid land I now call home.

October brings a crispness to the air and children playing in the grounds across the street, their laughter and shrieks reminding me of things I shall not do again, this side of the pale. But still and all, it is a heady vintage and I'll drink my fill of it; memories long forgotten welling up from the depths of my soul. May God, in His mercy, forgive me of all my sins remembered. Other bright moments cascade into the evening sky as my praise to Him who caused me to remember all the good things I have seen.

Sorry to be so maudalin. Bad news from the Iraqi theater. If true, I'll be feeling bad for the next 24 or so hours. Better to feel bad than furious. Probably address in at my site, if true.

Sorry to hear of your sorrows. Loss of family is always the most difficult to bear. I've lost mine several times now. [Note: Goes with the turf, military and all, from my old batt, I figure we had a 99% divorce rate.]

Please try to get over it. I don't know what the Buddhists do, but from my perspective, if we are confident they had accepted Christ, we are certain to see them again, on the other side.

Some people wonder how some of us can be so sure of this. I tell you the truth, if you had seen what I have seen, you would be as certain as I and your sorrow would be turned first to joy and then to a peace that surpasses understanding.


[The proof is in the prophecy.]

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