“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
I love the form and containment of Ecclesiastes 3. First this and then this, measured out and balanced. The beauty of parallelism.
A time to weep and a time to laugh . . .
Last Friday, the day I received my final copy of my forthcoming novel, Sing for Me, my daughter Magdalena and I drove to the studio of a friend because Magdalena wanted to take photographs of our dog Honor. Magdalena also snapped a picture of me dancing with joy because the novel I’ve been thinking about since 1995 has finally come to fruition.
A time to mourn and a time to dance . . .
On Saturday our family relinquished our dog Honor to another family. This family lives in another state. We searched long and hard to find the right people for Honor, people who will understand his particular nature and needs.
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing . . .
The woman of the family has already emailed me about their walks together, the wonderful companionship Honor provides, and how the beds and toys we sent along with him seemed to be a comfort in this hard season of change. He pulls a bed close to theirs at night, she says, and he pulled another close to her even as she was writing the email to me. She attached a photograph of Honor, lying there at her feet as she typed.
We have been preparing ourselves for this necessary loss for some time, but still my son and daughter and I are given to tears. Truth be told, I believe we are sucker-punched by grief. They say cold comes with mourning, and I am cold often, though the weather seems to be shifting towards spring here in the Midwest (never mind the snow last night; I believe it will be spring soon)
A time to plant and a time to uproot . . .
My son is pale and quiet, and we move toward each other often for hugs. Last night we lay on his bed for some time, listening to a favorite audio book. Honor slept with Teo, and now Teo sleeps alone. Magdalena grimly works away at her photographs, trying to edit them until they’re just right. Righting the situation. She also claims she wants to have a funeral for Honor. How can we do this, when Honor is so very alive? I am trying to understand.
He is eating well already, the woman wrote. I share this news with the children, and they regard me silently.
Later we talk of how good it is that Honor will now receive 2 to 5 mile walks a day. We couldn’t do that for him, we remind ourselves. He went through the window of our house; he was that anxious. He ran away; he was that pent up. He was so lonely with us gone all the time. He did a fair amount of damage. We couldn’t just drug him. We’d loved him as best we could for six years, and now it was time for someone else to love him just as much, if not better.
We don’t stop loving him, though. He will always be a part of our family.
Why am I writing this post? Is it maudlin? I ask myself these questions even as I type these words.
I guess I am thinking about how to find a way through grief and guilt and a sense of failure, and the odd combination of love and tenderness and joy that courses through this season that holds its particular catastrophe.
I am seeking wisdom about this strange mix of times and seasons, not parallel at all, but braided, intertwined, inseparable, enmeshed–what is the right word for this co-existance of weeping and laughing, mourning and the dancing— this life?
Charles Dickens wrote this:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way . . . “
I so much prefer the measured grace, the this and then that, and then again this and then that of Ecclesiastes 3. But for now, spring of hope and winter of despair—lines blurring, qualities merging. I’ll work to reconcile myself to this season.