Ed. note: This post was accidentally published yesterday morning — apologies for its disappearance and now phantom like reappearance today, its original intended publication date.
The Uses of Sorrow
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
This poem is difficult. Sometimes I think that I try too hard to assign meaning to the sorrows of life, as if grief must have a purpose. I am forever chastened by a reader who once wrote that she had given birth to a stillborn child, and that she could not — would not — allow that God had intended that. Some things just happen, she said. And what to say? The only possible human response was to sit in grief with that reader, and not say all the things that I usually say to buoy myself and my Magpies. To nod, and to cry, and to listen — to make dignified space for the breadth of her loss.
But then I creep back, peering my head around the corner, finding umbrage in the promise that we survive 100% of our bad days and that I believe there is a plan — even sometimes if that plan feels self-constructed — and that it is too difficult and despairing to live otherwise. So though I bristled at first at Mary Oliver’s words, thinking singularly of my friend E., rejecting the idea that her passing could in any way be “a gift,” I think I will let them hang with me for a minute.
A bit dark to share on a Tuesday morning, but —
Just to say, in case you need permission, that it is OK to feel your way through things, to find yourself landing on different sides of the coin, to live in a semi-permanent state of ambivalence. If it took the brilliant Mary Oliver “years” to understand the contours of her own sorrow, it is sure to take me a lifetime.
P.P.S. The sense of an ending.