January 27, 2011 – 364 days and counting

On Friday, it will be a year since my Nana died.

Even though I had not gotten to see her much in the last few years of her life, it was still an involuntary thought to have her on the planet. When that shifted to her Spirit being with me instead knowing I could drive down to Waco at any time and see her smiling face, it was a blow I was not expecting. Doesn’t matter that she was nearly 97 – the grief was, and continues to be, a strange bird within me. Its feathers are piercing and its eyes are weeping. Its wingspan envelops me in both a cold, hard embrace and a rush of instantaneously glorious memories. Its timing resembles the flight of the Albatross – take off and landing are quite ungracefully bumpy while the mid-air flight seems to soar forever.

I wrote about this grief a few months ago. Seems appropriate to share it now.



My Grandmother Died

“My Grandmother died. She was almost 97 and the most remarkable woman I ever knew. She knew how she wanted to live her life and she did it. Her way. I miss her,” Vivian said to the woman with blank eyes. “She has been gone more than six months and I still cannot fathom the Earth being able to rotate on its axis without her on the planet.”

The woman with blank eyes did not respond.

“Everyone tries to console me by reminding me what a full life she must have lived being 96 and healthy until the end. I know they were trying their best, but really, the longer she lived, the easier it was for me to believe she’d be here forever. A constant. Like the moon. Sometimes a little closer to my corner of the universe, sometimes a little farther away but always there to light up the night and make it easier to find my way.”

The woman with blank eyes did not respond.

“If her faith ever wavered, she did not let on. She survived the death of two of her children – one only a few weeks old, the other as an adult whose life was stolen by a ferocious cancer. Even in her grief when my grandfather died over thirty years ago, I could see my grandmother’s strength. She couldn’t hide it if she wanted to – it flowed from her in times of great joy and extreme sorrow. It flowed from her to everyone she touched, everyone she loved and who loved her. And, let me tell you, the nation of people who loved my grandmother was vast.” Vivian smiled at the thought of generations past and those to come who loved her grandmother, the woman who did not comprehend the word stranger.

The woman with blank eyes did not respond.

“Are you listening to me?” Vivian asked the woman. “Have you nothing to say? No empathy to offer me in my time of grief?”

The woman with blank eyes did not respond.

Vivian slammed her hand on the counter and stared straight into the woman’s unwavering gaze. Instantly, Vivian’s eyes teemed with the wildness of a tiger trying to escape a snare-trap. She began yelling, “Won’t you acknowledge these things I am telling you? Can you not simply find a trifle of compassion, a touch of sympathy or an infinitesimal morsel of solace behind that stone-faced wall?”

The woman with blank eyes did not respond.

Vivian shrieked in anger and punched her fist into the mirror between them. It shattered and Vivian’s hand pulsed crimson tears after the assault. Still, the woman did not move only to enrage Vivian beyond any semblance of humanity. She began spreading her blood all over the bathroom as she ripped down the shower curtain, threw the vanity stand over the woman’s head sending make-up products everywhere as if an Avon-bomb had exploded. Vivian tore at the edge of lose wallpaper, tearing apart half a room of delicate yellow flowers with green leaves.

As she grabbed the hot curling iron intending to set the room ablaze by igniting the wallpaper shreds, her eyes once again met up with the blank eyes of the woman in the mirror. Only this time due to the hundreds of shards of reflective glass, there seemed to be thousands of eyes staring back at her devastation – unblinking, unmoving.

For a moment, a portion of second perhaps, Vivian thought she saw one of those eyes release a tear. A single glorious, glistening tear. She searched the multitude of brown orbs glaring silently at her havoc desperately trying to find it, ripping down each broken piece of glass that was not right. Time folded into itself as she worked her way across the length of the mirror and tiny pink wads of flesh began to litter the floor as her hands became pulverized down to the bones.

Vivian was now standing on the bathroom counter, only the upper right corner of the dismembered mirror remained. Her hope of finding communion with someone, something to counter effect the banality of her exterior world slipping away with the removal of each pair of eyes. Her breath was weak and shallow. Her body leaned into the connecting wall to keep her upright and her head slumped against the corner. One arm had gone numb and she had only the lesser-trained left to continue the work.

She almost missed it. Her bloody hand grasped the tiny fragment and had pulled it away before she realized this was the piece. This one held the eye that could weep.

She clutched the piece to her chest and collapsed down on the counter. One foot fell off the edge and the other into the sink basin. Her own eyes began to brim with a salty flood, her lids tightly clasped shut to keep the waters at bay until she was sure. Vivian raised her hand and uncurled her bony fingers to reveal what she believed to be her only chance at freedom from the pain consuming her. She took as deep a breath as she could manage; stealing as much strength to withstand the truth she was about to see.

Vivian opened her eyes and focused on her reflected terror. The eyes she witnessed were indeed wet with tears, the entire face sobbing in grief. Vivian’s emotional torrent crested over her steadfast dam and years of raging waves broke free, crumbling the poorly built structure around her soul.

Vivian wept uncontrollably. Unabashedly. Unforgivingly.

An immeasurable amount of time passed before calm soothed the cataclysm of Vivian’s heart and she began breathing normally. Her grief settled about her like gentle puddles after a rainstorm. She thought about the room she had destroyed to get here and looked down upon the deconstruction. Those thousands of eyes from the wall were on the floor staring back up at her.

All at once – they blinked.

And, again the woman with blank eyes did not respond.


August 29, 2010
© Kathleen Vaught

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