Sunday, January 16, 2022

Dirge Without Music (Day 16, Year 2)

There is a poem that I've loved since I was 16 years old. I discovered it in these books of poetry my grandparents had on the bookshelf at the bottom of their stairs. When my granddad died, my mom and I spent several nights with my Nana. I was not sure how to be grieve or how to be appropriately sad. I had no idea how to comfort my mom or my Nana. Everything just felt over. 

Those nights at my grandparents house were long. And I was lonely, so I turned to those bookshelves and those volumes of poetry. I stumbled by this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, called "Dirge Without Music." After I read it--out loud, as poetry should always be read--I understood grief and in grieving one never resigns oneself to death. 

You might be wondering why in the world I am writing about this on a lovely, snowy evening in January. Well, I was scrolling through my Facebook profile pictures today, looking for the ones from 10 years ago. My curiosity was triggered by some of those #TenYearChallenge posts in my feed. Then my curiosity triggered a full blown breakdown over 2011. 

Ten years ago was the first year without my Dad. There was no Nicholas. My brother was alive. 

I think of my Dad all the time--especially as I watch my kids together on snowy nights savoring every snow flake.

He would be so proud of them. And he knew--I think he knew exactly who my girls would be. He always told me that Lily--quick to smile and slow to become defeated--would be more than fine. And that Chloe would be the one who gave Lily and the world a run for their money. He used say, "there's just something about that Chloe, I can see it."

He never knew his only grandson. But in every question Nicholas asks and in every moment Nicholas makes a new friend (several a day, the boy is unstoppable), I see my smooth, charming Dad. 

I am missing out on showing him all of this--how much I ache to say, "Dad, look! Look at them!"

That last sentence took me 15 minutes to write. I had to stop to cry. 

Ten years is such a long time. 

There is no solution to grief or time or missing or longing. The years will grow longer; the decades will tick by, things will change, the family will grow and I'll still miss him. 

I will never be resigned to death. 

I am at peace with that, truly. The rejection of resignation to death is love and memories and fight. 

Here is my favorite poem, the one that always finds me when I feel lost:

Dirge Without Music

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone.  They are gone to feed the roses.  Elegant and curled
Is the blossom.  Fragrant is the blossom.  I know.  But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know.  But I do not approve.  And I am not resigned.

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