Poetry: Loss and the Other Side of the Mirror

The mirror of memory is illusory. There are concrete facts of a life printed in obituary or on prayer cards, housed in certificates, measured and ranked by numbers and the count of years. But human experience cannot be constrained or condensed or fit neatly into quantitative boxes. We are born – some to the great delight of others. We die – releasing our hold on the human experience and giving over to spirit. Living or dead, we cannot control how others feel about us or think of us.  I have lost all the elders in my family, parents, step-parent, grandparents. The smaller emotions – disdain, anger, resentment can be understood in small pieces. But the ocean of love with its waves of loss, with its crests beautiful moments and depths of aching why – it is a flood – it washes over us and through us. It is the storm that levels us and it is the gentle rain that makes us new.
sky
When my stepfather John died, I was witness to my mother’s disintegration. I was a child and did not understand how grief could smother and disappear someone. We did not talk about his loss until much later in our lives. And when we did, I still did not have the words to respond.  It was like she finally opened a closet door that had been nailed shut.  My mother unpacked memories of the bliss he brought her, the intimate jokes they shared, the careful and funny words he used. She poured out how he made her feel safe and hopeful and loved. They barely had three years together before he died. But life is not about counting to three – it is about how moments strung together in that time wove a cloak of love and goodness and laughter.  And then she spoke of how it came undone slowly at first and then threads unraveling around her life until she felt invisible.
I went home that night and I wrote this song for her and for John. I was a student at the Koch voice studio at the time. And John Koch, my teacher, wrote some amazing piano for this Irish ballad.  I was able to sing it at the Illinois State Center for the Performing Arts – with my mother in the audience.  She was there because she was proud of me. I did not tell her until after the concert that it was written for her. I handed her the lyrics.  Because I wanted her to know that I understood. Because the whole time she spoke of him, I could see her watching the moments she shared unfold in the mirror of memory. And she gave me the gift of allowing that to happen.
goth
Here are the lyrics:
Go From Me
Across the Ocean,
Across the Sea
I imagine your face here in this dark place
And I know it cannot be
Go, Go From Me
Take your ghost and circumstance
Find somewhere else to be
Go, Go From Me
I cannot breathe the air as you
So until I do go from me
Against all Reason,
Contrary to Sense
I speak aloud to you the way I used to do
And I ache to hear your defense
Go, Go From Me
Take your sweetest desire
Drown it in a Memory
Go, Go From Me
I cannot lay my hands on you
So until I do go from me
Bound to Grieving, Bound to Sorrow
Counting Stars beneath the Veil
Go, Go From Me
Take the last heat of your touch
Take the Breath away from me
Go, Go From Me
I cannot live with you
So until I do
Go From Me

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