I wrote this blog nearly two years ago and never posted it. I thought I would do so now in memory of Harpo who passed right around Christmas time two years ago. It is also for those of you who have experienced loss and are still feeling that strange sense of hollowness from it.
“Where there was something and suddenly isn’t, an absence shouts…”
I read that line on New Year’s Eve. I had stumbled upon a morning poetry retreat online; I honestly don’t recall how I got there. I signed up, having the fortunate foresight to know it would be exactly what I would need. The excerpt is from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, Burning the Old Year.
That was my first inclination. Burn the year down. Purify. Start over.
The notion of burning prompted a lively discussion among the group. What to keep; what to release. Are some things just too precious to give over to flame?
Another line in the poem says, “So much of any year is flammable.”
When I got down to the part about absence –– about three-quarters of the way into the poem –– my inclination toward pyromania became clear. I wanted to burn away the pain of Harpo’s absence, an absence that is as loud as a gong reverberating an inch away from my ear. Yet, paradoxically still.
Harpo’s absence announces itself routinely though his energy is gone. It’s a heartbreaking combination. A constant reminder of loss.
But it is as it should be. I took so much joy in his presence. Of course, his absence would have such an effect.
In the middle of Nye’s poem, she says, “So little is stone.” Harpo was a gigantic rock, a central anchor in my life for 7 years.
Instead of burning off the pain, I will just have to let the pain burn. There’s no shortcut here.
“Only the things I didn’t do crackle after the blazing dies,” is how Nye ends the poem.
I can still hear a lot of crackling from my long list of things undone this year, except for one. Harpo knew how much I loved him. In addition to general care and nurturing, I hugged him, kissed him and told him with great exuberance that he was adored – every day. Not one day did I miss. Not one.
That’s a good feeling to start any new year with. I recommend doing it with the living stones in your life.