Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Love is Stronger than death"

“Love is Stronger than death.”
–Song of Songs 8:6
-From “Hope” by Emily Dickinson
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all

Dear My Star,

I finally went to the cemetery earlier today to see you. In such places, I wonder, is anything more powerful than death? Spring-time says yes, and just this week thawed the ground enough to allow the installation of your tombstone. And it is perfect. The Red India granite stone is regal, yet welcoming, just like you. You chose it well even if it is the second most expensive stone on the market!  I was surprised (and relieved?) to see that you weren’t there. This concerned me as I’ve been accustomed to meeting the dead in cemeteries.

But you were there. And yet, you weren't. If there is a there, there, then you are, there (whew!). Mystery. I took the first photos of the site for your friends and even recorded some of my thoughts a la Esther, on your Flip camera! My comments were totally unrehearsed except that I’ve been having similar conversations with you all along over these, long nine months. I know you thought I was your friend but I’m really just your dad and I’ve been worried that you might be lost somewhere, in trouble somehow. I have had nightmares but I cannot dream directly about you and you know what a dreamer I am. I want so much to see you! I can’t go into a store without thinking, “This would be excellent for Star.”  You were so easy to buy for and so grateful for anything I brought home. “Oh, a tomato! How thoughtful, dad. That’s perfect.” “Awesome! I have never heard of the ‘Infinite and Dreary Chronicles of Drooling, Alien, Sumo-Wrestling Babies' but, hey, can’t wait to start reading!”  Many times I have wanted to tell you about my day or get your advice or watch the newest Dr Who episode with you (you’d love them now!). No one around here likes espresso. Someone said you’d now be forever 16 but I don’t think of you that way. To me, you are, at once a chipper five year old holding her new star pillow and an ancient bodhisattva-like wise young woman listening, blessing, ever ageless.

What does one do when a great party ends? Clean up? Relish. Remember. Is that enough? Esther! One young woman got a tattoo with a star and ‘This Star Won’t Go Out’ printed right on her wrist! She put it there because that’s where the cutting starts and, now, with such a reminder, literally right in front of her, hope has enlarged, self-harm is diminished. People are talking about you and are inspired to overcome all kinds of things in your memory. I understand that. You were a burden sharer and burden bearer. But we needed you here. I need you here, now. If I had a wish, it would be to see you, but, if I could draw you up from the underworld, you’d be horrified to think I'd used my wish on something so trivial! Still, I am angry that you are gone and I guess that means I am in denial. So be it. I am a denier, then. This is what I deny: death does not win (said with an undignified small d). Love is Stronger. Love and hope are conjoined, if you separate one, you kill the other. If hope survives then love endures. Where even a sliver of love exists, the thinnest of hopes has room to grow.

I left the cemetery and headed straight to the tattoo parlor. ‘Love is Stronger than death’ has been etched on my heart for some time now so I’ve decided to make it official. That phrase, along with your name, ‘Esther Grace’ and a shooting star, will soon appear on my body for all to see. Perched where I am, that’s my understanding of your final, resting place. It ain’t final.

Love,

daddy

"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is stronger than death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned." ~Song of Songs 8:6-7