This weekend marked twelve years since Shelly took herself from the world. It occurrs to me that she's been gone now for longer than I knew her alive. I hit some wild grief for her over the weekend, stubborn and insistent, just as she was. I unfolded bits of paper, notes and letters postmarked in the 80s and looked at her handwriting, my name, touched the paper as if I could find some part of her lingering there. She was my friend and I miss her, I miss her still. There's a part of the heart that always searches.
Oftentimes at this time of year, I read the poem I'm including below, The Tatterd Kaddish. The Kaddish is a Jewish prayer, a caring way to express your undying love and demonstrate that the soul is never forgotten. While this poem is not the actual Kaddish, I believe the explanation is important. It's a comfort for the living because, for me, it extends the elusive understanding as to why Shelly chose to leave this world. And us. It’s been a long, long time since I wrestled my faith for understanding, more often I’m simply and purely missing her physical presence. So, although I’ve long ago accepted that I’ll never understand why she left, this poem, and in particular the last line, continues to lead me to broader comprehension of her struggle.
Adrian Rich, from An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-1991 (1991)
Taurean reaper of the wild apple field
messenger from earthmire gleaning
transcripts of fog
in the nineteenth year and the eleventh month
speak your tattered Kaddish for all suicides:
Praise to life though it crumbled in like a tunnel
on ones we knew and loved .
Praise to life though its windows blew shut
on the breathing-room of ones we knew and loved .
Praise to life though ones we knew and loved
loved it badly, too well, and not enough.
Praise to life though it tightened like a knot
on the hearts of ones we thought we knew loved us.
Praise to life giving room and reason
to ones we knew and loved who felt unpraisable.
Praise to them, how they loved it, when they could.