Monday, January 22, 2018 a quiet way and at an opportune time,

One of my favorite works of fiction is Tim Farrington's The Monk Downstairs. There's nothing weighty about it, it's just a pleasant little tale of life and love, a trifle that I enjoy because Farrington writes with a sort of breathlessly effortless grace, the kind of writing that makes writing feel easy and natural, as if you could just sit down and crank out that sort of perfectly simple yet perfectly weighted prose any time you want to.

But there's also a deeply sorrowful heart to it, and I remembered why I cried the first time I read it, over a dozen years ago but not long after my daughter Bryn was stillborn. It was this, and I hope Mr. Farrington forgives me quoting him at length.

"She had never allowed herself to grieve wholly before, she realized now. Not for her father, not for her grandparents. Not even for her marriage: she'd never allowed herself to face what it meant to fail in the central relationship of her life. To really remember that shining, innocent love she'd felt and everything that had happened to it. And this was why, of course; because some pragmatic, self-protective sense had told her that grief was bottomless. Skirting this sea, she had dipped her toes in; she'd wondered what would happen if she crossed the line, but it had always seemed that it could only be a kind of defeat, a drowning, a death.

And so it was.

But maybe it was not the end, to be defeated by life. Maybe that was even part of what it meant to be a human being; to recognize the way in which life had finally defeated you, to accept the ways in which death had come, to stop looking away from the failures of love, and to grieve.

To keep your heart open in this sea of silence; to drift in it, surrendering to its currents baffled and without recourse.

And at the bottom of it, to be surprised anew by love's simplicity."

And that's really it. It's a sort of munshin, a letting-go, the simple acceptance of the endlessness of grief, the release of struggle and denial against that suffering of loss. Some things are simply too grievous to be borne, and it is the trying to bear them that crushes you beneath their weight. It is only when you simply sink beneath them to that deep, still darkness that your heart and mind can then accept that that grief is part of you and always will be.

That, just as for the note to be there must be silence before, and after, there must be darkness for there to be light.

Knowing that does not lighten the darkness. But it makes the darkness bearable, a part of life instead of a denial of it.


Nimble said...

Ah, that's really something. Thank you for sharing. I hadn't heard of him.

BigFred said...

Thank you Chief.

Talyssa said...

Just read your comment on my blog and so glad it lead me back to this post.
So beautiful.

Sorry to hear of your loss and your journey through it. I love how there's so much strength, insight and realisation you can gain from reading books - it can be such a great comfort during the tough times.

Definitely adding this to my list :)