Too Rare, Too Quickly

                      “…Curse only
the fact that such days are too rare
and pass too quickly.”
Grace Bauer from “Nowhere All at Once

That’s from a poem we read Wednesday night in my writing class, in anticipation of yet another snow day here in NJ. I’m about the only one I know who’s loving this weather. I look for its excuses to stay inside; I look for it the way others look for spring. I resent spring’s incessant blooming, its insistence that I be outside. What all am I supposed to do out there? Inside, there are curtains to sew, movies to watch, books to read, words to write. And stillness to inhabit, because all the sewing, watching, reading and even writing are not going to teach me how to live with Philip’s death if I can’t spend some time still and silent.

Natalie and I live on the top floor of a two-story garden apartment. Our unit is part of a brick building set back from the sidewalk in a small u-shape. When I look out my living room window, the bottom of the U is to my left, and I face the side of the U opposite mine.  In the center lawn is a large, wide evergreen; on Thursday, its trunk was disappearing under the same snow it gracefully shook from its branches, with some help from the passing wind. Snow was coming off the roof in delicate powder-puff bursts, which weren’t at all delicate when I stood underneath them – then they were a chill hail of icy needles aimed at my upturned face. Not unpleasant, really, unless I stood long enough for the chill to take hold. Because if it did, it’d work its way under my skin and I wouldn’t be rid of it easily.

By 1:00 I’d come inside for the fifth time. I was restless and uneasy and kept going outside to breathe icy air, to make sure the snow was as real as I wanted it to be. It was up to my knees and I didn’t want it to stop. I was all-too-happy to fall asleep the night before, knowing I’d wake up to that snow. But there it was and I watched and waited but for what, I didn’t know. The flakes kept shrinking and growing and I dreaded their cessation, afraid they were going to stop before I heard what they had to say; if I didn’t hurry up and get their message, it could be for-ever until they came again

“The universe is talking to you,” Ed says, every time I tell him some new way Philip’s let me know he’s around; “What more do you want?” I could be flip and say, “I want my son not-dead,” but that’s not what I say. That feels false, and I don’t mean because I don’t want Philip here. I mean that’s a glib, thoughtless response, designed to cut Ed off and leave myself alone and misunderstood. Why do I tell Ed these things, why tell anyone, if I’m going to diminish them to prove that grief trumps all. And what then? I win?

I looked out my window for hours on Thursday, looking for something in the brooding silence of the storm. But then it stopped and the sidewalks and walkways were snow-blown into 18”-wide perfectly-edged mini corridors. The snow I’d trudged through earlier that day had been tamed into something more manageable.  But I wanted more; the world wasn’t yet white enough. The bushes were still visible, and that tree looked no more covered than a woman in a sheer lace top. Why can’t we abide the quiet? Why the rush to order, to busy-ness; the hurry to get back to what’s familiar, to what we think life should be? The way it is is the way it’s supposed to be. How do I know? Because that’s the way it is. Complain about the snow, the rain, the cold – each serves its own purpose. How much more peaceful to recognize that than to insist that life’s not fitting the story we want it to.

And if I really think life’s the way it’s supposed to be, then I need to accept that Philip’s not here the way I want him to be, to respect the way the universe is talking to me through him. I need to move past the stamping-my-feet phase of my grief and see what it means to live in its depths, always with Philip guiding me. “In life,” Philip says to me, “you said the more you let go, the longer our bond became. Nothing’s changed, Mom. And whatever you’re afraid of isn’t binding us any tighter. It’s just causing you to miss what it is I’m trying to tell you.”

Try some happy, Mom, Natalie says. So here’s some 24 hours of it. Enjoy.

© 2014 Denise Smyth


24 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Melanie
    Feb 15, 2014 @ 17:16:07

    That daughter of yours – how I love her. And you – OXO


  2. Denise
    Feb 15, 2014 @ 17:17:30

    Song’s a blast, eh?


  3. kmlagatree
    Feb 15, 2014 @ 17:26:43

    Happy! It made me so for the few minutes I felt I could devote to it. But I will return again and again. The snow will require me to do it. Can’t wait to hang out with you tomorrow! xxoo


  4. Denise
    Feb 15, 2014 @ 17:45:33

    YES! You, me, Captain Phillips and a pot of soup. Ahhhhh…. ;o)


  5. jmgoyder
    Feb 15, 2014 @ 21:43:11

    Apart from everything else that is beautiful about this post, it is such an amazing piece of writing – amazing!


  6. Denise
    Feb 16, 2014 @ 05:15:55

    What lovely and inspiring words to wake up to – thank you ;o)


  7. nataliehemmerich
    Feb 16, 2014 @ 09:52:08

    I often want to say lots of things, but they are simply my musings and THIS is your life, your process, your grief… KEEP WRITING, I hear you, I hold you in my heart, I send my love and peace. I guess I’m just saying, I never want to detract from your process with my comments. 🙂

    How do I get invited to the soup and Captain Phillips party?!!? 😉



  8. Denise
    Feb 16, 2014 @ 10:49:45

    Whatever you say is appreciated; believe me…thank you for sending love and peace. God knows I could use it right about now.

    And you are most welcome to join our party – long as you don’t mind that the soup’s vegetable, like pretty much everything else we’ll be eating (not counting the cake and cookies, ‘course ;o)


    • nataliehemmerich
      Feb 17, 2014 @ 21:50:36

      I think I just mean that there are so many opportunities in the world to just listen and offer support rather than being invested in putting in my own two cents. 🙂

      When and where?! 😛 mmmm veggies! (more importantly: mmmm sweets!)


      • Denise
        Feb 17, 2014 @ 22:16:51

        I knew exactly what you meant. I try to practice listening to what someone is saying instead of thinking about how I’m going to answer…we are so full of ourselves, sometimes. But you should know that anything you say is welcome, anyway.

        It was chocolate mousse cake, and it was yummy!

  9. edcol52
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 04:09:10

    Just found your blog. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my 24-year-old son less than two months ago, suddenly, and unexpectedly. I have read a few of your posts and see our children had a lot in common; both extraordinary young men who had so much to offer the world. I will be returning to read more of your writing. I have started my own blog, ( I invite you to visit. Writing is a way for me to, and I hate to use this oft bandied work, “Process”, my grief. Grief isn’t something you process like a roll of film or a cut of meat. It is something we now live with every day. Will live with forever. As many have told me, and I see have told you as well, keep writing. Be well.


    • Denise
      Feb 17, 2014 @ 05:23:46

      “God save us from our processes” I wrote on my blog; my frustration, I think, with what can be the thoughtlessness of language – or at least the way it gets used. That’s part of why I write. There isn’t language for this, I used to say; I am terrified because I’m so alone with what I’m feeling and I can’t even connect with anyone because I can’t say it, I can’t tell you what I feel. All the words have already been used and none of them were potent enough to express what it felt like to lose Philip.

      I am sorry for your loss, and when I write that, I mean it. I don’t know how I’ve survived these last two years, but I’m grateful it’s no longer year one. I don’t mean to say – as you’ll hear left and right – that it gets “better,” but it does gets different. And yes, we’ll live with it forever. But I’ve finally come to see that we’re in it together, and much as it’s a terribly sad way to walk, better we walk with each other than alone. I’ll check out your blog, and if you ever want to email me, feel free.


  10. lensgirl53
    Feb 18, 2014 @ 17:08:11

    Spring is a sad and hopeful time for me….sad that my son’s time has ended here on earth but hopeful that all things continue…life is never ending…the circle of life continues. And though it does not allow me to see Brandon now or again in this planet life, I will see him when I step beyond “the veil” and be with him forever. God tells us to “be still and know that I am God”…we miss His voice in the rush of our daily living if we do not. I am sending you a warm hug from Florida.


  11. Denise
    Feb 18, 2014 @ 21:16:15

    Oh, thank you Dale; I sure could use it. And those words haunt me, calm me: Be still, and know that I am God. Also, “We say God is, then we cease to speak.” There is a power, Dale – and as Philip keeps saying, “Mom, have a little faith.” Spring frightens me. I’m not used to this, to being alive without my son, and I know the last two springs left me so angry and helpless. Everything’s growing; what about my son??? But I’m starting to get it, little by little. I always start with Natalie. She’s here, now, and she needs me.

    You are a dear friend Dale; so sorry we had to meet this way, but so grateful that we did.


    • lensgirl53
      Feb 18, 2014 @ 21:27:03

      Thank you dear friend. I am here for you. You are blessed to have Natalie to help you “try some happy”…and those tender whispers from sweet Philip telling you to “have some faith.” Do it. xo…dale


  12. Denise
    Feb 18, 2014 @ 21:53:02



  13. grahamforeverinmyheart
    Feb 19, 2014 @ 22:53:58

    Just wanted to let you know that I’ll be thinking of you and Philip this weekend and I’ll light a Yahrzeit candle for him. I know this will be very rough on you (I’ll be facing two years in May).
    Hugs to you.


  14. Denise
    Feb 19, 2014 @ 23:07:26

    Two years…how did this happen? Oh, wrong question. How do we deal with it, is all. Thank you for remembering, thank you for the webpage you started to help us all.

    And thank you for being there. I miss him; you know what I’m talking about.


  15. grahamforeverinmyheart
    Feb 20, 2014 @ 06:30:35

    You’re welcome. Thank you for writing your blog and sharing your feelings with the rest of us. Your writing helps me to “deal with it” and get some perspective.
    I know you miss Philip.
    And I ask myself every single day…how did this happen? It might not be the right question, but I struggle with it nevertheless. Two years is a monumental amount of time, it’s a lifetime of pain and yet it also feels like our lives changed only two minutes ago. Be gentle with yourself (and Natalie), one breath at a time.


  16. Denise
    Feb 20, 2014 @ 08:19:51

    Yes – remembering to breathe, and only one breath at a time. Because a day at a time feels impossible.


  17. rconnectus45
    Feb 20, 2014 @ 14:06:42

    Do you feel like you’ve made some breakthroughs? Seems as if you may have.


    • Denise
      Feb 20, 2014 @ 14:22:15

      Grief has a life of its own – but I’ll say this. I’ve never felt Philip around me as strongly as I do now, and I “hear” him saying, “Mom, breathe.” So I think of him and breathe instead of falling forward on my face. It’s such hard work – but I’m doing it. And as someone just said to me, “It’s one breath at a time.”

      And you? Hope this finds you well…


  18. tersiaburger
    Feb 23, 2014 @ 06:07:25

    I so wish I could “feel” Vic the way you feel Phillip. Lots of hugs and gentle thoughts dear friend.


    • Denise
      Feb 24, 2014 @ 10:06:48

      I hope you do, Tersia. I do believe it’s possible, especially since you’re so close to her.

      And so many hugs back to you, dear friend…


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