Monday, September 20, 2010

"About suffering..."

My husband had a good, hard, exhausting, heartbreaking visit with his sister and her husband and children. She will have surgery on Thursday to try and reduce the size of the tumor and extend her life. But short of a miracle, it seems, there is not much hope, so we hope and pray for a miracle.

Kirk said that, because of the tumor, her personality had changed and that he felt she was slipping away. I keep thinking of a story he once told me of being a little boy - three-years old - and looking out his bedroom window to see the EMTs carrying the sheet-covered body of his older sister Laurie, who was five, down the front walk of his house and away forever. And now another sister is slipping away from him.

At times like this, I always think of W.H. Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts," which is, to me, one of the most perfect explorations of human suffering ever written.


Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel's Icarus for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

5 comments:

Susan said...

I'm so sorry for what your family is going through. Prayers and hugs to you all.

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

this is heartbreaking..she is on my prayer list and the Goddess seems to pay special attention to them as they are all still on the list and all are still with us..

Anne Watkins said...

This poem is perfection. I did not know it.
Thank you.
The light on the untidy spot, the pounding routine of tragedy. How do we live with it? How do we not?

This news makes no sense, does it? So grateful that Kirk has you and your family. I am weeping over all of it and begging the ship to drop anchor and pay quiet attention.

with love, Anne

jason said...

That poem has stayed with me since oh, 5th grade or so when I first read it.

I'm praying here. Seriously.

a thousand shades of twilight said...

Still thinking of you, and Kirk, and all of your family. You've all been through so much. It is so unfair. Wishing you peace and love.

That poem is amazing - thanks for introducing it to me.