All Hallows’ Eve

All Hallow’s Eve, a time of magic. Some rebuke this idea. But how can they, truly?

Listen! Can you not hear the quiet laughter of magic in the quick rustle of the leaves as they race and tumble along the ground? Listen long enough, my friends, and soon you will hear a dry cackle.

Can you not feel the velvety coolness of the night air brushing past you? Stand still long enough, my friends, and you will swear that you felt a cold hand upon your own.

Do you not feel something dark in the shadows, just out of sight? Stare into the blackness long enough, my friends, and you’ll feel certain that a black cat is staring back at you.

Look up into the trees! Do you not see the large, dark, amber eyes of the owl? Stand there and look for too long, my friends, and you will see the knowledge with which it studies you.

The stars–they are all around you, prickling you with the same light of thousands of years past. Observe them for too long, my friends, and you’ll see that they’re observing you; adding the knowledge of what they find to the stores of mysterious secrets held through the ages.

Caught up in all of this, you hear the voice of one passing stranger calling out to another. But was it, really? The more you think on it, my friends, the more certain you’ll become that it was the voice, not of a stranger, but of one from the distant past, long since gone.

There is a special magic in all of these things, just as there is magic in the silent dust of sacred books not opened in recent years; the orange glow coming from the jack o lantern on the nearest step, which seems to flicker mischievously with more than just light; or the silence of the graveyard under the full, golden, harvest moon.

Your spine begins to tingle as you are snapped abruptly out of this discomposing reverie by a group of passing children. Listen! Can you not hear the sounds of their laughter being carried back to you on the night air? Listen long enough, my friends, and you will find that they are laughing at your disbelief in magic.”

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Smile with a Carol in your heart..

“Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile even when it’s breaking. When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by. If you smile through your pain and sorrow, smile and maybe tomorrow you’ll see the sun come shining through for you. Light up your face with gladness. Hide every trace of sadness, although a tear may be ever so near. That’s the time you must keep on trying. Smile, what’s the use of crying? You’ll find that life is still worthwhile if you just smile.”

One of the most valuable things I learned from my friend Carol is how important it is to smile. A smile can be such a blessing to others, and also to yourself.

When Carol passed away almost two years ago, now, I made myself a picture. It’s just a simple picture of her smiling, and I wrote the same words that I have typed up above on it. I have it hung up in a quiet corner of my house, where I occasionally glance at it, and it reminds me of the importance of a smile. Sometimes I see it in the morning as I’m getting ready for the day ahead and I tell myself that I’m going to go through the day with a smile on my face and a carol in my heart (see what I did there? 🙂

Today is one of those days where my eyes have been drawn to that picture more than once, because she is fresh in my mind. That’s because today would have been Carol’s 21st birthday. I was just thinking earlier how strange it is, because I don’t think of myself as being very old, but I just turned 22. And that’s an age that Carol will never see. It’s interesting to think about, but it also was starting to make me sad. So, I let myself cry a little and then sucked it up, and told myself, as always, that today will be another day where I just need to go about my business with a smile on my face and a carol in my heart…because Carol would be appalled if I went through her birthday without smiling. 🙂

“A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:13

A Compassionate Reaper

It is a strange existence to be around, always. To be ever-present, but never specifically seen. As if one is intangible, invisible. People like to pretend that I do not exist. And yet, they are afraid of me. I cannot say that I truly blame them. To all people, I am unseen and unknown, but expected. Invisible and forbidding, representing the shadows of separation that falls, seemingly forever, between lovers, friends, mothers, husbands, and children. How could they not fear me?

I have existed since the days of Adam–a shadow, myself, lesser than angels, but in some strange ways, greater than man–created by the Creator. I am not so forbidding as one might think. More like a comforter and timekeeper, sent to aid those who must part company with the world.

I was created to be absolute, with a sense of justice. There have been times when I have wished that I could speak to those I must leave behind to listen to the echoes of their own grief, thinking that perhaps I could say something to ease them. But that is impossible for me, only being able to have a special, one-time communication with a person in their final time of need. Ultimately, I am impassive. As I must be.

Throughout the existence of mankind, I have been there. Some small part of me following each man, woman, and child. I have done my duty, always, to the best of my abilities. Truthfully, I can say that I have never wavered, but always held faithfully to my purpose. One could say that it must take endurance and strength, maybe even some patience to stare into the faces of frailty and fatality every day.

For I am always needed, in many places throughout the world, each and every day. Sometimes in singular, quiet moments before dawn. Sometimes in the solemn and final beats of the heart, surrounded by watchful loved ones. At times it is in the dark seclusion of a remote location–some scene of unfeeling brutality. Then there are times in wards of hospitals with people overcome by illness and disease, their eyes bright with fever. In times like that, they often speak aloud to me.

The times of the most unspeakable tenderness are at the loss of a child, no matter how young. Also on the fields of battle, where the pride, rage, and greed of humanity leaves young men cut and wounded, bleeding out and desperately gasping for peace and reassurance. In the final seconds of a person’s life, there is something that each one needs or longs for to comfort them, and part of my job is the ability to take the form of whatever that might be for each individual. In those times of war, kneeling in the dust and carnage, I am most likely to be heard whispering the loving words of mothers–as though I can give their noble children the chance to say goodbye before they release their hold on their once remarkable strength.

Very rarely is anyone surprised at my presence. Loved ones might stubbornly hold to the hope of life and vitality, but a dying man knows when something has shifted or changed. He knows when his heart begins to falter. Still, there is reluctance, as an automatic reaction to the thought of moving past the life they have built into the unknown. Panic sometimes rises when I have told them what must be done.

“Hush, now,” is one of the first admonitions I can be heard to whisper to their souls. Not their hearts–for, in reality, the heart is just a muscle. It is their essence of being, molded at the day of conception, that feels, that hurts, that fears, or that doubts. And so it is that part of themselves–that core–that I whisper to.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

The process of leaving one’s body can be so painful, and most people gratefully clasp to these hopeful promises of God, relaxing their hold, so to speak, at the thought of the peace that waits.

Some are ready and waiting for me, seeming to reach out for me within an instant. Others take more time–minutes, or hours. But it is time that I spend faithfully. These are the moments that I was created for, no matter how long they may last. They are meaningful, no matter where or how they happen. For it always speaks to my own being to be able to do what I was designed for.

To me, my job is simple, and I simply do it. I look into a person’s face, at once being able to see the child that was, and the adult that is–to see the span of their years. And then I comfort them until I am able to touch their ageless core of existence, calling them out of their former home so that I may escort them to courts they could not begin to imagine. Never looking back.

“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” -John Donne

Ghosts

I am a stranger in my own house. I walk the rooms, my feet moving almost silently of their own accord. I see my long fingers touch things. Can a ghost move things? Because I can, and I do. But it registers nothing. I move about, interacting and touching, but pale, seeing nothing.

Perhaps ghosts are no more than lonely people, moving under lack of company or compassion for too long.

But small things bring me back to life. Watching a bird take flight, with a spread of delicate but strong wings; the smile of a child, full of innocent sunshine; the warm familiarity of the embrace of someone who cares, reminding me of the fluttering heart within my chest.

Does that mean that these other ghosts, these sorrowful spirits of loneliness, can also come back to life? Do they only walk as apparitions because of the weight of the knowledge that no one cares–no one has in many years.

What if you were to speak to one? Would it be as surprised as you? And beyond just speaking, what if you came back? What if you kept at it? Would a transformation take place before your eyes, almost too gradual to see?

The eyes will become fixed, animated, finally able to see. The transparent and insignificant will become not only significant, but meaningful. Color will rise. Breath will be drawn and air will be tasted. And then, one day, a hand will find your own, warm and inviting, pulsing with life. The solid fingers will squeeze, shy and hesitant at first, until feeling fills the void and arms, like bands of tender strength, are wrapped around you in gratitude of the new life you have given.

Ghosts are only people, after all.

A Mother’s Nature

When–at the misty, cold dying of the year–even the smallest leaf falls from it’s mother tree, is it ever forgotten?

Does the tree feel the separation? Perhaps she stands immobile by nature’s force, seeing where it lies silent on the ground. Does she ache with the futile longing to scoop it back up and attach it to herself permanently, once more?

On a misty, autumn day, I walk among the avenue of mother trees, who let their heavy tears fall to the ground, rolling off of their tender branches in the form of rain, making soft, echoing, pattering sounds of grief. For, surely, even the smallest leaf is not forgotten.

I stand in the misty parkway lane, the fog thickening around me, lying thickly on my shoulders like a weight of sadness. My own heart trembles with sadness for you, mother tree. For even after winter winds have blown through, removing all evidence of your loss, with nothing left to show of their existence, you are compelled to go on being a mother, carrying with you always the weight of one who was once so fresh and brilliant, now gone forever except within your heart.

But I know you. Despite this chilling loss that has crept over you, you continue to stand strong. The cold days of winter may seem harsh. Snow and ice may cling to you for a time, but someday the sun will shine once more, melting away those frozen shards of painful memory.

And with the sun will come another chance at new life and happiness. And you will revel in that warm happiness, all the more fiercely loyal and strong because of your loss. For, surely, even the smallest leaf is never forgotten.

-.-

I don’t usually elaborate on any of the pieces I write, but this one is very special to me. It came to me this morning as I walked around the lake (and yes, the weather was cold, misty, and foggy), after being told by a dear friend of mine that she and her husband had suffered a miscarriage.

My heart truly does tremble with sadness for them, and any others in their position. I have never yet had any children of my own, but miscarriages are more common than some people might think. I have had other friends and acquaintances who have had to deal with that pain, and, from what I understand, it is a pain and knowledge of loss that never truly goes away, even if it lessens.

It then occurred to me as I was typing, that while I wrote it with miscarriage in mind, it is applicable to the grief that touches peoples hearts after any loss. I hope that maybe it can speak comfort to anyone who may stumble across it that is grieving. Maybe it will tell them that they are never alone, and there are still good things to come.

Eat Your Heart Out

Honesty. It’s something I prized. Couldn’t put a price on it, above all other things. I thought you had it. I thought it was something that we shared. Only that could’ve made me give myself to you in a way I’ve never dared to do with anyone else before.

Yes, I trusted you for a time. That’s my only crime, and it’s bad enough. But baby, you’ve got it worse. Because you just kept on going, your tongue perverse, even after I begged you. I begged you not to hurt me. But you did, and now I guess we’ll both just have to live with it.

So take a look into my eyes and you’ll see your own lies staring back at you. You think your heart is broken. Well, how do you think mine looks after spending so long absorbing the lies that you’ve spoken?

So softly, like a thief. Not in the night–no, boldly, in the morning light. God only knows why I trusted you, even as you knew that you were eating my heart from the inside.

Change of Heart

It is late Summer. The sun stays high, and often hot, in the sky. My hands, stretched out before me, take on a wavering tinge of jade, as the sun shines through leaves swaying overhead. It seems hard to believe that a change in seasons could be so near.

But then one morning, we rise to find that Persephone has gone, the cool, misty breath of Autumn hastening her on her way. The sun shines, not hot and bright, as before, but with a weak, silver light as it tries to filter through steel clouds which hold terrible promises of rain and snow.

And yet, golden light seems to fall all around as trees are struck with shades of brilliance–a lingering promise that Kore will return, making our hearts leap with a warm flame of anticipation.

But colder winds begin to blow with stronger force, threatening to extinguish such a hope that Spring and life will come again. For with Winter comes Eris, allowing discontent to creep in through the cracks of a broken home, as fog through a keyhole.

The days often seem long and bitter with cold, with brief moments of warmth and tender respite to break up the seemingly monotonous passing of time.

But still we hold to hope, that small flame flaring higher within us at unexpected moments. Surely Spring will come again. It always does.

But will we still be the same?