My cousin, Shirley, and her daughter, Jan, visited for a few lively days. Led by talented Jan, the three of us recovered the seats of the piano bench and four chairs that go with the game table in the living room. They all look fabulous! I’d bought the fabric for something else, but one day just before the family reunion I set it on the piano bench I saw how perfectly it fit in that room. Tiny changes are taking place in this house, and they seem integral with the changes taking place in me.
Most of John’s things remain exactly where he put them. Four pair of reading glasses, different strengths, lie on the bedroom dresser. Small tools still decorate the railing by the back door. A pile of US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT gets taller on the end table by his chair. I continue his habit of keeping track of rainfall (we had about 20 drops yesterday but I didn’t put those down. It’s “measurable” rainfall he tracked).
As the time goes on I change only a few things. A large change, even if I consider it, seems a betrayal. I know it isn’t so much a betrayal of John as it is of myself. There’s a specific time, fashioned from external circumstance and internal readiness, that must be observed. Change at the wrong time (too soon/too late) rips tendon from bone---tears at what is deepest, what we often call soul.
Death makes witnesses of those who remain. Death lays time flat out, scatters time with the remnants of those whose essential being has made the passage into timelessness. I’m learning the necessary task of seeing, of recognizing in the remnants a kind of language. “This is who I was in time. This is who you loved.” To bear witness is a task much like prayer. A contemplation. An act of gratitude and praise. An honoring of the wholeness of another person’s life. Each track a person made, each object created and produced, each act of bringing order to what felt chaotic--the way he placed his things inside a drawer--all deserves time and an open heart.
Given time and witness, the remnants yield up their secret truth. The heart translates the language. The remnant, that object of expression, has served as it was meant to serve. The spark of John’s life’s meaning ignites in the witness -- a fire in my own heart. The moment of change arrives. I can give away the jacket, move the picture from this wall to that, go through the stack of papers on his desk, remove his FAA issued sunglasses from the console in the car.
Death frays the weave. Witness binds it up again with new patterns. How will it turn out? Does it matter? Love weaves love.