Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

It's amazing how quickly hope can die. There it is one minute burning bright as a bulb heating up and firing my creative oven, and the next dead or dying in twilight. When hope dies, everything dies. I don't know how to resuscitate it, bring it back from the dead. When hope breathes its last breath, I don't know how to laugh anymore. I don't know how to make terrible things into a joke. I don't know how to be jolly about that which should be forcing me to my knees in wailing anguish.

I hate watching things die; especially people.

"What is a worse thing? Dying suddenly or knowing you are going to die soon?"

"Well when you know, you get to say goodbye. But when you don't know, you don't have to be afraid."

I'd rather not be afraid.

I feel guilty about never visiting my sister's grave. I convinced her to have one. We were having tea in my father's kitchen casually discussing plans for her funeral. I insisted on having a place for her to be after her mortal body was gone. She relented. I hardly ever fucking go.

The first time I went it was just strange. Standing there by her grave wondering what the hell to say, what the hell to do. It was her birthday. My dad knelt down. He had a little brush in his hand. And he started cleaning the dirt out of the letters on her tombstone.

Is that what hope is? The swish of a little brush on granite. The unfounded belief that we have the power to make everything okay. Nothing is fucking okay. But maybe that's the secret. You keep hope alive by pretending it isn't dead. And in that little delusion, survival is possible. Our souls take flight on a lie and cling to the irrational possibility that the idea of us is a permanent fixture in a random universe. "Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul" - Emily Dickinson


  1. I hardly visit my own husband's grave. I felt guilty, but I think of it like this. I was there for him and took care of him when he was alive. He's not really in that grave. So who the fuck cares if I don't go see it often enough now that he's dead?


  2. I really don't get the point of visiting someone's grave unless you actually believe they are looking down on you and know all. And as someone who does not pray, what the hell am I supposed to do once I'm there? Regardless, I believe Amy would have rather had people come see her when she was alive. And you did that.

  3. As long as there is breath, there is hope. I truly believe that. Of course, that indicates that someone dead has no hope. I have no idea about that. But I do know I'm not dead and, therefore believe I have hope. Who says I have to feel it all the time to believe it is there?

  4. It seems you've found other ways to honor your sister's life, without having to make a martyr's trek to her grave. For some people grave visits may be a good thing, but if it's not for you then I don't think you should feel guilty. Personally I don't visit graves because it compounds soundness in an empty sort of way. I find it much more fulfilling to "visit" by looking at pictures or sharing old stories. To me, grave visits feel like an empty gesture. But that's just my two cents. ...babspeapod

  5. I agree Gwen. I feel guilty as well for not visiting Amy's grave all that often but it feels so empty. And depressing. I would much rather honor her with a brunch or doing something that reminds me of her like baking cupcakes, drinking clos du bois, or a trip to whole foods. I miss her a lot. :( When I do go to her grave its more for your Mom & Dad or Aunt Renee because I know it means a lot to them and they do a lot to keep it looking nice.

  6. This was lovely and heartbreaking.

    If graveside visits don't bring hope or peace, honor her and visit her in other ways: at her favorite spots, with her favorite meals, with her favorite people.

  7. We're a family of crematers (is that a word?) Except for my aunt who died of breast cancer about 20 years ago. Her grave is only a few miles from here, but I never go there. However, whenever I see a horse, I think of her.