I was thinking on it this morning. Thinking about grief. Specifically losing a child. I am sure most of you know of the death of Steven Curtis Chapman's youngest daughter. You can read the tragic story all over the internet.
Anyway, I was thinking about them, praying for them. ...thinking about what a complicated emotion grief is. And, just thinking about a lot of heavy things from the last few days. My little brother fighting the summit wildfire, my parent's home being in close proximity to it...
How does the Chapman story relate to Wendell Berry, you ask? One of the story threads in the book is a family whose son is away at war. At the beginning of the story, they are notified that he is MIA. Berry takes us through their time of processing this information, and the various forms of grief that the family members experience. I was so struck by this conversation, between the husband & wife. I need to share -
Mat & Margaret are on the porch, watching their daughter-in-law play with some of the grandkids...
...And the Margaret asks: "What are you thinking about, Mat?"
The question startles him, for he gathers from the tone of her voice that she knows what he is thinking, and asks with daring and with fear.
"Loss" he says...
...He looks at Margaret, meeting her eyes.
"Loss. It singles us out."
She smiles at him, shaking her head. And he realizes that the singleness he is talking about never has belonged to her. She has been without even the comfort of that - not single and whole, but broken. He grows ashamed of his bitterness. He too is broken, as he has been, and has known, all along - that singleness of his attempt, typical of him, to prescribe terms to the world. The loser prescribes no terms.
"Mat, when we've lost it all, we've had what we've lost."
"But to lose it. Isn't there anything in you that rebels against that?"
She looks steadily at him, considering that - whether unsure of her answer or unwilling to answer too readily, he cannot tell. He is aware that Margaret it trying him, drawing deliberately at the bindings between them, as he tried her with his singleness.
"No," she says.
"None at all?"
"Virgil, " she says, as if to remind or acknowledge what they are talking about. "From the day he was born I knew he would die. That was how I loved him, partly. I'd brought him into the world that would give him things to love, and take them away. You too, Mat. You knew it. I knew so well that he would die that, when he did disappear from us the way he did, I was familiar with the pain. I'd had it in me all his life."
The story continues with more profound writings. You'll have to read it. But, I think these words from Margaret are incredible. I have had a similar feeling toward my children, after God teaching me this lesson so plainly with Gabriel. But I could have never shared this thought so beautifully as she (or Wendell, really...).