A landslide

As the CD slid into the player, a voice inside me, said, “It’s time.”

And I knew the words would come.

For months after my father’s death, I used music to minister to that place inside of me that needed a voice.   Other people’s words, through song, would open my heart and allow the tears to flow, the sadness to wash over me and give voice to the weight of what I felt.

One song in particular spoke to me.   I had heard it on the radio one day and knew it was the song that would become part of the road leading me to a new place.   Once I had the CD in hand, I began playing it.  Hundreds of times.   And each time, the tears would come.

Except today.   There were no tears.   No great heaviness.  Just an awareness that it was time.

When I first started listening to the song, I didn’t like parts of it.   It didn’t exactly fit, I told myself.  But the more I listened, the more honest I became with myself.   And I realized, it fit perfectly.

But the song alone seemed to be missing something.   There was this intangible thing, an idea, I felt was floating around in its intention, but not called out by name.   And then I found a poem by William Randolph Hearst called The Song of the River.

Here is an excerpt:

“The snow melts on the mountain,

And the water runs down to the spring,

And the spring in a turbulent fountain,

With a song of youth to sing,

Runs down to the riotous river,

And the river flows on to the sea,

And the water again

Goes back in rain

To the hills where it used to be.

And I wonder if Life’s deep mystery

Isn’t much like the rain and the snow

Returning through all eternity

To the places it used to know.

For life was born on the lofty heights

And flows in a laughing stream

To the rivers below

Whose onward flow

Ends in a peaceful dream.

And so at last,

When our life has passed

And the river has run its course,

It again goes back,

O’er the selfsame track,

To the mountain which was its source.”

And the song I’ve been stuck on, took on new meaning for me……

Listen with me….

http://youtu.be/W3cGxlZjMWU     (Landslide by Fleetwood Mac)

My father’s death was the beginning of a landslide.   Realistically, I knew that the landslide wouldn’t kill me but I also knew that it would be a rough ride.  That parts of it would feel like I was suffocating under debris.   Landslides demand a downward motion.  All I could do was tuck and roll.   I could not and would not, fight the inevitable.

I had tried to convince myself that I hadn’t built my life around my parents.    My husband and I have built a good life.   We had made our own family.   Yet, I had stayed in the town I was raised in, and I had chosen to stay because of my parents.   I wanted my life built around them and made it so.   And now part of that was gone.

But I could see my father’s reflection everywhere.  It’s true that a reflection isn’t the same as the person, present and in the flesh.   But in many ways it took my father dying to really see who he was in life.   Parts of him, I hadn’t notice or understood became clearer.  My appreciation became deeper.  Of course, that comes with its own regrets but I’m guessing this kind of hindsight is pretty common.

And I started to think more about how I wanted to reflect him, intentionally.   Some of his best attributes were inside of me.    While he was alive, I didn’t need to tap into them much.   He was here and why settle for a student when the Master is present?   But with him gone, one way to truly honor him was to continue the good he had always done.

I had been trained my whole life for this.   By him.  By my mother.   He was gone but not forgotten.   So what could I do with those memories?   And how could I make peace with honoring him in a way that didn’t negate the fact that although he is in me, I am also a very different person from him.   I needed to accept that our goals could be the same while the way of achieving them could look very different.

But all that was just one more way of figuring out how to cope with the loss.

I imagine that when a landslide ends there is silence.   And then, slowly, evidence of life reappears.   The landscape has changed some, it looks less familiar but beauty will unfold again.  Birds start singing.  Flowers push through the new earth.

To live, stuck in the memory of the landslide would be to live forever trapped under a devastating force.    To live looking over my shoulder in anticipation of the next landslide would be to live in constant fear and dread.

But to see the landslide and to accept it, as both an ending and a new beginning – that is where both hope and life are found.


6 thoughts on “A landslide

  1. Andrea says:

    very nice Beth. Your words made me feel again what i often think has finally subsided, the grief I feel of my dads passing 21 years ago. But, just like that it can rush over me, usually when I am alone and not even aware I am thinking about him until i feel the tears on my face. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, keep it up, it’s a gift : )


  2. Anonymous says:

    After the landslide, during the silence, we realize we can still breathe, so we do. Little by little, the breathing begins to feel normal and we look around to see if others are breathing, too. This is when we are able to see the beauty in front of us and around us and within us. Stargazers will tell us to see a star clearly and in focus, we must look just to the side of it. At its after image. Dad’s after image, his footprint on earth, will not easily be erased nor quickly forgotten.


  3. Ginny says:

    you have a wonderful way of putting in words what most of us go through when we loose parents that had held such a special place in our lives and hearts. you have a gift. a gift of words. please keep using it. knowing that you are not alone, that others have traveled the road too, can be comforting. especially when those unexpected moments occur and the tears start to flow. I am able now to look at the tears not just as a sadness, but as a tribute to how much I was loved by both of my parents.


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