Addicted to Ink

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The You of You

For those of you who only check my blog to see pics of Dominic, here you go: (Dominic's daddy was trying out his new camera!)
If you actually like to read my ramblings, well, here you go: (get comfy, it's a long one!)
At the University of Portland, there's a guy (Brian Doyle) who has a job very similar to mine, only he's a zillion times better at it I am! I LOVE reading his stuff. His last editor's note was beautiful... and in light of recent days of these cycles of new life and death orbiting my family and friendship circles, well, I have to copy it here:
The You of You [Brian Doyle; Portland Magazine, Winter 2007; The Difficulty of Saints]
A guy who works in a hospital tells me stories. He is a nurse. A lot of babies are born who don't live a day, he says, but of course their parents name them, and I keep a list. There was a woman who named her son Once. He lived an hour. There was a boy named Chance and a boy named Jesus and a girl named Wonderful. We had a stillborn baby the parents named Almost. One man named his daughter Lost. Some people name their children after trees and birds and such, Ash and Pine and Hawk and Wren. We have had several Rivers and one Ocean. A lot of names have something to do with music, like Harmony and Melody, and a lot of them have to do with light and color and natural phenomena like rainbows and sunshine and summer. A lot of the babies don't get names at all because they die so fast and the mother is exhausted and despairing and we don't press the matter. Those are the babies who are named A and B and such in the records. Baby Boy A, Baby Girl B. We name them quietly ourselves though. If you look at their faces long enough their names arrive. Maybe those are the names the babies are really supposed to have. You never know. I think every child born has a name just as every child born has a character and a personality that was never in the world before and never will be again. Me personally I think that when you are formed in your mother's womb you have a name that is part of every cell in your body. You are your name. Your name isn't a word or even a sound, it's the you of you. I am not being articulate but you know what I mean. You stare at a baby, you know, a child who has been dead for half an hour, a child who was alive when she came out of her mother, and who she was, maybe who she is, her name appears in your mind. A friend of mine says you hear the ringing of a bell but that seems too poetic and fanciful to me for what really happens, which is that somehow after a while you just somehow know her name. I write it down so it doesn't get lost.
We keep the list private, just something among us working here, something important in ways that are hard to explain. Hey, you're a writer, you write it down and try to explain it. I can't. I just know it really matters somehow to listen for what her name is and then write it down. Somehow that's what I am supposed to do. There are a lot of things we are supposed to do that are really important in ways we will never understand but we do them anyway, right?

Grief is a funny thing, and, as my friend Todd says, we don't know how to grieve in this country. This essay, I think, is a way of grieving for all that is lost in a life, any life, lived or not - a life that was never in this world before and never will be again.
My grandmother died yesterday, and I am trying to figure out this whole concept of grieving. She was undoubtedly one of the most important people in my childhood. And one of the things that I really appreciated about her was that she made a great deal of effort at continuing our relationship as I became an adult. That doesn't happen with all of the people from your childhood - family or not. But there was never any doubt how much she loved me... in fact, "I love you" were her last words to me.
My mom instilled in me the love of reading; my grandmother instilled in me the love of writing.
I spent many, many weekends at her house during my childhood; she read me stories and I read them to her. She taught me to bake, and we often tinkered around on her piano. She was at every recital, every play, every award ceremony, every birthday party, every youth group fundraiser. Who knew that Grandma would come to love football? Yet she sat in the stands every Friday night in 90-degrees in August and 30 degrees in November, just so she wouldn't miss a halftime show. She was the one who taught me to drive - and spent days of her life as my frightened passenger. She always bought my siblings and I Easter outfits; and had the patience to spend hours creating Christmas ornaments out of felt and tacky glue.
Her immediate adoration of my husband assured me I'd made the right choice; holding my new son gave her joy.
She was funny and kind and generous - one of the most generous people I've ever met. She loved to sing and knew every hymn in the book by heart. She loved to laugh and was always making jokes, even in the hospital. She loved her Jesus and her Andy Griffith and her game shows. And life. She loved life, but in these last days, she wasn't living it here anymore - I think she left us, mostly, a while ago.
There was never before an Alice May DeWell Murnahan, and never will there be again.
But I am grateful - so grateful - to have known her.


Blogger chocolatechic said...


7:16 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

That just might be the most beautiful picture, and the most beautiful sentiment I've ever had the honor to see.

I am sorry for your loss. But I have to say, I think you're handling your grief remarkably well.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Megs said...

I'm so sorry that your grandmother passed. She was a remarkable woman, who has enabled you to equally remarkable.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay so I pretty much knew this story was going to make me cry..and well....the day you wrote it, i wasn't sure I could handle anymore tears.

So I decided to read it today. WOW. How beautiful. You're so talented and I cried the most when you wrote the part about you making the right choice with Mike. I agree.....I feel like she left us a while ago too. That she was just hanging on for us...
Hmm...wasn't that how she always was though..doing things for all of us. For everyone.
Even if it meant she had to eat crackers.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just thinking about her life and it's making me very sad. She never got as much as she gave. Always giving of herself....sacrificing HER wants HER that others would be happy it just breaks my heart. What a wonderful woman. A precious Mom and Grandma. She is getting her reward now though..GOSH can you imagine it! It's so beautiful to think about.


12:29 PM  

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