Monday, January 16, 2012


I can't find it. I looked through the entire book twice.

Perhaps it is in my imagination? Google doesn't know it either. And google knows everything! Ok, not everything. Google has failed me before, I think google has actually failed me on this very poem before.

From the best of my memory it goes like this, written by my dear friend Vicky:

I've made myself vulnerable, I've let myself care
I've opened my firmly closed heart.
My safety is gone, it's no longer there
My protection is falling apart.
Nobody promised our hearts would be safe,
Our bodies protected from harm.
A second goes by, all we think that we have,
Yet hope will endour through the storm.    -Madeleine L'Engle (A Ring of Endless Light?)

Who knows, maybe I am wrong and made the peom up myself! I highly doubt that though. Perhaps it is just in a different book, or I missed it. Twice.

I think I first read this book when I was about 10. That would mean that my sister was 12. No, I must have been younger, because I do not think my little brother was 2 yet. My first memory of it was my sister sitting in a dark living room, rocking my baby brother and crying. I remember her saying she was glad he had woken so that she could hold him.  My sister and I did some of the getting up with him when he was small, since my mom had my baby sister and couldn't handle getting up with 2 (he didn't sleep through the night until age 4). Of course, I suppose that would mean he was over 2, so my first estimation may be closer to the truth after all. Ah well, the exact age is not important.

I first read the book with apprehension. I did not want to succumb to emotions as my sister had, seeing outward emotion as a weakness far below my current state of self-control (I know, I know). So I read it ready to criticize. Now I will say that I now know my sister is very wise in choosing the books that draw her. For instance, it was she that first loved Peter Pan. I was merely following her lead and discovered in doing so a genius far beyond what I ever expected. So it was with A Ring of Endless Light - though I read it now and find the writing style clumsy, perhaps it just ads to the charm of the story.

Now, for those of you that have not read it before **spoiler alert**, there is a very central theme to the story. Death. The book starts with a funeral, it watches a man on his deathbed, it converses with Vicky, the granddaughter of the dying man primarily about death, a main character within the story talks of how he wants to take his own life and there are 2 unexpected death within the story, one significant to our culture and one that is not. Yet, the book ends with the dolphins singing and the baby birds flying.**end spoiler** Perhaps it could be argued that the book is about valuing life. But is that not always the message of death?

Now, when I put it that way I wonder if I should have read this at 10 years old. But honestly, it is not a sad book.

Alright. I titled this post 2011 and that would suggest a "look back at the year" type of subject and I promise you, I am getting there.

My first real memory of death  (real, meaning I was old enough to understand) was when my mom had a miscarriage at 19 weeks. That was also the first time I had ever seen my dad cry. I remember my sister crying, my brother asking over and over why my sister was crying. My mom telling us we had to push on her stomach now to make it flatten out again and burying the baby bib I had sown with a round cookie tin that held the body of my baby brother under the almond tree in the backyard. I was 7. Funny the parts we remember.

My second real experience with death was when my best friends lost their baby brother Michael. He had a heart condition and was not strong enough to hold on, even after he was given a new heart. I was 10.

When I read that book I was still in the throws of these experiences. I think that looking at it all from a philosophical point of view was helpful for me. You see, most people first experience death with a grandparent or older relative. Someone that is more or less ready, someone that has gotten a chance to live life. For me? It was the babies and that brought with it a sense of wrongness. Death made me angry. My goldfish died? Angry. My beloved cat passed away? Angry. Sure I shed tears, but I remember working hard to shed tears at the tiny service we had for Michael. Because that is what everyone else was doing. But I didn't honestly feel like crying, I felt like stamping my foot and yelling in anger. My world had betrayed me. My God had betrayed me.

In the summer of 2011 I found myself, what it felt like, surrounded by death. A beloved uncle, my husbands grandma, my best friends baby. All were, what felt like moments away from Cóiste Bodhar. We didn't know, all we could do was pray. In the end, this time it was the oldest that lived. For that I am thankful, but for the others....

You know, I will admit there is some anger left. I am angry that kids lost their dad, that a wife lost her beloved. I am angry that I lost my uncle whom I loved so very much. I am angry that a mom and dad are left with empty arms, I am angry that I will never get to meet baby Gabriel in this life. These things feel wrong. But mostly, mostly I am just sad. You see, 2011 felt in a lot of ways like it was all about loss. My ears ring in a empty way when I think back on the year. Does that make sense? 

But you see, at the end of the story...the dolphins are singing, the baby birds flew - at the end I have my beautiful baby girl Kaylee and I feel so very very blessed.

There is another poem in the book.  This one google can find:

I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright;
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years,
Driv'n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov'd; in which the world
And all her train were hurl'd.
The doting lover in his quaintest strain
Did there complain;
Near him, his lute, his fancy, and his flights,
Wit's sour delights,
With gloves, and knots, the silly snares of pleasure,
Yet his dear treasure
All scatter'd lay, while he his eyes did pour
Upon a flow'r.

There are several verses, you can look them up if you like. But somehow when I read that I feel peace. This is all so much bigger then me.

2012? Well, I want to be more organized. I want to see my big girls grow bigger and my baby become a big girl. I want to grow ever closer to my husband and I want God's joy to bubble from me uncontrolled and messy. I want to be silent, I want to be bold. I want to speak less and listen better. I want to learn to love the lonely silence. I want to love loudly and laugh at being clumsy. I want to make sure all those that are important to me know it. I want to pray more and become less scared of meeting new people. I want to give up anger and embrace sorrow, for from that grows healing. We have all of eternity before us, and it is a beauty!
Yet some, who all this while did weep and sing,
And sing, and weep, soar'd up into the ring;
But most would use no wing.
O fools (said I) thus to prefer dark night
Before true light,
To live in grots and caves, and hate the day
Because it shews the way,
The way, which from this dead and dark abode
Leads up to God,
A way where you might tread the sun, and be
More bright than he.
But as I did their madness so discuss
One whisper'd thus,
"This ring the Bridegroom did for none provide,
But for his bride." 
- Henry Vaughan

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post, Sarah.

    I first read Ring of Endless Light while in college, and I love it. We have a copy here that I hope one day Charissa will want to read.


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