Word came last night of the son of friends, dead at age 27. We could not take it in. We recalled the boy as an infant and a toddler, his first birthday, friends cheering as he crossed the room with lurching baby steps and a big grin. “If he falls down, will he cry?” I asked. Our friend, answered, “He never falls. We always catch him.” David speaks on the phone with his old friend. The parents are stunned, hardly yet comprehending. Will they ever? How can anyone?
At three a.m. I wake in the dark, the place where death and loss begin to take shape. I remember this from other times and know that what I feel is the palest reflection of the pain that stabs our friends. As they come out of numbness, their minds will begin to thrash about the cell of grief, seeking escape.
Two things come to me--and this is only for me, not a recommendation: First, images of trees, both outdoors, in the snow, and on the pages of the drawing books I pored over before going to bed. Dead or alive, trees do not try to explain anything: they simply are. Ritual words and words of wisdom come, too, but not as explanation—only as formulae, to be chanted silently over and over.
...Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis.
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao....
These phrases repeat themselves over and over in my head, a disjointed litany spoken against the branches of trees.