Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Maddening Beauty

Rilke remarked about Rome, there is beauty here because there is beauty everywhere.

I wish I were still in Europe. How can that be? Why do I wish I was there? Provo is beautiful, the remarkable green on the mountains from the wet spring, sunny every day, windful and full of sweet scents on the air for those of us blessed with no allergies and a fondness for sandbar willow and globe fallow. Do I think that if I were in Europe, my grandma wouldn't have died? She was 96 years old, and after nearly a century, death is not unexpected. In fact, since my birthday 3 years ago, when she fell and broke her hip, we knew this was coming. She had told us who was and who certainly was not to play the organ at her funeral, divided up all the major peices of furature and the silver, commented on how she was just waiting to die. And still, when she died it was not beautiful. She was alternatively unconscious--they make these little doses of morphine now--or hysterical, throwing tandrums, raving that she wasn't ready to die. What more is there to wait for?

My mom has a theory. There's really nothing to be done, in the long run, for someone in labor. You give her medicine, you hold her hand, you try to make her comfortable, but in the end, it's an indeligatible chore. It's one of those few things that you just go through alone. Death is still scary, even for my grandma, having been on acquaintance with death for so long. That shakes me, because I've always thought that between my worldly admiration of Marcus Aurelius and the Stoics on one hand and my abiding faith in the literal Christian resurrection on the other I would be immune to fear of death. Now it seems, TV series finales notwithstanding. everyone's afraid.

My family's coming out. All of us haven't been together at one time since the informal family reunion of my return from the mission. I'm already thinking about games with my nephew, talking with my sisters. My brother and I rode our bikes to the movie theater, like we were 10 years old again. We had a big Costco cake and Sees chocolates--it's been my dad's birthday, too-- with my mom's siblings. I told them all about my trip to Europe and I've promised them a slide show when they've come back with their children's families for the funeral. The funeral will be Monday at 11:00, but we ought to plan on it taking all day.

We've been keeping the house clean for my mom. Small comfort, considering she's been orphaned and lost the person with whom she was spending, easily, three hours a day. But I remember once whining about chores after Grandpa died and she cracking, "My dad just died," when I asked why she was being so strict. We keep the house clean, even spot-cleaned the carpet, my brother mowed the front lawn, she arrainges everything with her siblings, and us Hedengren siblings watch multiple episodes of Law and Order, go shopping for appliances, eat leftover cake. My grandma's little sister, of course, has been notified.

And in this is there any beauty? It's no dramatic tragedy, nothing quintessential. I half wish it were, but it's the way life is, all planning and preparing and advice and unexpected expenses, just as for every vista and art-induced stupor I had to register at hostels, find the bus to the inconvinent Ryanair airport, buy coughdrops from a drugstore. I spent a lot more time looking at my feet on the sidewalk than gothic spires against a sky. That's just the way it is and just the way everything is.

I'm here and I'm glad to be here, long-bath lazy and moms-credit-card comforable. It's not beautiful, this day-to-day business of death and waiting for death, but it's no less beautiful than any other vista on life. That's another way of saying, it's just as beautiful. It's beautiful. I don't need these Roman skis and trees.

It doesn't hurt to see them, but I don't need it.


Makayla said...

I'm sorry to hear about your grandma. I know it's sort of an expected thing, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt just the same.

After everything, the Londons and the Paris' and the Romes and all that - there is just something about home that we love best. Perhaps it's because that's where we find what we do need: the grandmas and the moms and the people who love us enough to help us on our way, and cheer us on as we leave them now and again to see Roman skies and trees.

Jennifer said...

I too am sorry to hear about your grandma. She was always nice to me and I know she and your mom were particularly close. My sincerest condolences.