Grieving for Blake: a ghostly affair

Persistent readers know that I have been documenting the demise of my ex-husband Blake here at 115journals. I’ve told of his remarkable 8-year survival with stage 4 prostate cancer, and lately his decline as he began to lose his grip on his perch. He passed away last Monday.

We have been divorced for forty years. We were married for only nineteen. We had two children, who are themselves middle-aged now. To protect their interests, I agreed to act as his executor. I knew it was a bad idea, but I wasn’t aware that I would be chief mourner and ghost-whisperer as well.

When it comes to Kubler-Ross’s  seven stages of grief, I’m a rapid cycler.

Saturday, I set up a little altar in the loving spirit of letting him go, or to be precise, getting him to go. He had turned up in Georgia’s bedroom at 5:20 a.m. in his hospital gown, trailing his blue hospital blanket, confused but vividly Blake. A few days later, Georgia’s daughter jumped off the floor and screamed as something brushed past her in a doorway. Admonitions to go to the light, to go find Leyla, his second wife, fell on deaf protoplasm, as did a final plea to go find his pet Sheba Inu.

In my place, his presence was more diffuse and business-like. He has left me to file several years of income tax, as well as deal with Alice, his resident gold-digger. On Saturday, that seemed charmingly chivalrous, so I set up an auxiliary shrine on the dining room table. As a Taoist, I keep a family shrine with pictures of my people, past and present, Kwan Yin, the Mother, Buddha and candles. I put a picture of 23-year-old Blake in his graduation gown, his obit, a book of Rumi poetry, a dozen tea-coloured roses, incense, Kwan Yin, Buddha and lit bees wax candles. It was the Saturday after his passing, the day we would have had his funeral if he hadn’t opted out of such ritual. I read him Tennyson:

Sunset and evening star
and one clear call for me
May there be no moaning of the bar
When I put out to sea.

Then I got on with my own taxes.

In the evening, I sat down to finish watching The Girl on the Train on Netflix. I had read the book some time ago, and, although I had forgotten it mostly, I knew I hated all three neurotic women and especially the drunken protagonist, who just wouldn’t let up on her ex’s new wife and may have killed her neighbour. About an hour later, my mood had swung from loving a farewell to dear Blake, to get back here: I’ll kill you myself. For my lovely Blake was every bit as good at gas-lighting as Tom, the husband in the story. We – ex-wife, daughter and step-daughter – had compared notes at dinner one February night when the family had travelled from near and far to say goodbye to papa. And he wasn’t beyond blackening each of our names to the others. Then, of course, there was the question of Alice, his latest triumph, 45-years younger, who wouldn’t let us in to see him without a hissy fit, and who had been helping him work his way through the home equity line of credit at a good fast clip.

I repurposed the altar in the name of love and told Blake to get lost.

So here I am, middle of the night, suddenly awake and sobbing with grief. I knew him longer than anyone still extant. I may have loved him best. I certainly hated him best.

He’s gone. I can’t call him up to lament about one ‘child’ or the other. I can’t depend on his caring as much as me. And no, I can’t tell Blake – whatever – anymore.

He believed death was the absolute end. There was nothing after.

In that case, settle down, Boy.

 

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New Year’s: Ring Out Wild Bells

“Ring Out Wild Bells” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson is traditionally read in Sweden on New Year’s Eve, in translation of course. I woke up on this first day of 2013 with the first three lines running through my mind. The “he” referred to is Arthur Hallam, an eloquent, enthusiastic, high spirited young man who died, leaving Tennyson to his own more gloomy, introspective devices. The poet wrote an elegy in sections like this one over 17 years.

It isn’t necessary to know that to enjoy the poem, however, for, like all great poetry, it manages to suit the time in which we read it. Nevertheless, to me the poem is a call to let go of past grief and misery and to press forward with a hopeful heart.

Ring Out Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

To hear bells try http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q00Nw8HSE-8

Skyfall: M and Ulysses

Of course I saw Skyfall, the latest James Bond movie, as soon as I could, just as I had the other 22. So far as you no doubt know, it has been a 50 year project. The one that stands out in my memory is Thunderball and that has more to do with the way I got there than the movie itself. We set out in our new racing green 1965 MGB with the top down on a pleasant evening. We were cruising along the freeway, happily anticipating the film. As we drove under an overpass, the driver of the semi next to us pulled on his air horn, elevating us out of our seats -no seat belts back then- and setting our hearts racing. I could see him laughing madly as he passed us. Thunderball could only be an anti-climax.

Skyfall I liked much better than Quantum of Solace although  I’ve never met a Bond movie that I didn’t like. As the usher assured me, Skyfall is old-fashioned Bond.

The movie begins with Bond’s death and when that proves, unsurprisingly, greatly exaggerated, we see a battered, unshaven Bond wearing jeans and drinking —- beer. Back in harness, he is expected to re-qualify as an agent and is assured by one and all that he is past it, that, in fact, the concept of agents going out into the field is itself passé. Computer nerds can do all that work now without getting out of their pyjamas.

M, Bond’s boss, played by Judy Dench, is of course, even older and appears to have lost control of MI 6. Eventually, she is called before a parliamentary committee to face the music. In answering the badgering chair of the committee, she quotes from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses”.

The poet imagines the great adventurer Ulysses, the ancient Greek commander who defeated Troy by using a wooden horse. In the poem, Ulysses old and bored with his home island of Ithaca, exhorts his men to join him on one last great adventure from which they will not return. The poem ends with the lines which M quotes:
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Full Moon, July 2nd, day 183

Looking at the full moon last night, I remembered these lines of poetry: The moon doth with delight/ look round her when the heavens are bare/ Waters on a starry night are beautiful and fair.

Tennyson or Wordsworth? 19th century certainly.

And July 3rd was the 183rd day of the year. There are 182 remaining. We are at the centre, a very advantageous position.

http://www.bartleby.com/101/536.html/  Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Childhood by William Wordsworth