I woke early this morning to attend jury duty. Last night I asked myself, “Can you do this? In the middle of the memories of “the week” that happened 14 months ago.”
“I think we can,”my mind told my heart.
While there, I visited with a familiar face, answered the question how I was doing with a flood bursting from within me. Grief uncorked can do that.
I tried to explain now that I understand abuse, I can’t unsee the manipulation, motives and workings of it from a pulpit. It’s a lonely, unsupported place to be for a widow who faithfully attended church her entire marriage. I tried to convey how denomination and doctrine are irrelevant, and often abusive, how I see everything differently now that you are in heaven.
I tried to explain that there is just You, the Eternal Creator and your creation. There’s just us humans here for countless generations with the choice of reflecting your love back to You, to each other and to your creation. No matter where we are in the world, who we are with and when we are in time. I’ve known that in my soul for so long. Abusive teachers and doctrine confused that truth. I now understand it’s that simple.
I tried to explain these deep truths in a hallway in answer to the question, "How are you doing?" Because, that was the honest answer.
I sat in the same seat as I did for the abuse case last August. I checked myself- am I ok? Having any PTSD from that nightmare? I thought I was ok. We then moved to the upper room. I remembered the field trip I had arranged for our children, the mock trial, the real trial, sitting there waiting for a court date, waiting for a verdict.
Are you with me here?
I looked around- reminded myself every person here is a soul with a story. Looked into the air space- are you with me?
The Judge always makes attending worthwhile, educating and encouraging us as citizens. He reminded us how important a jury is. Then told us a little about the case-
On May 10, 2020…… the defendants were charged with breaking and entry and theft…….
May 10, 2020 …….
14 months ago….
I could be anywhere right now-, yet here I am attending to my civic duty, convincing myself I’m ok. The charges could have occurred on any date,
they occurred on May 10, 2020.
Am I really here?
This moment is sacred.
Each soul here has a story.
These are the holy phrases I have been clinging to keep my sanity.
I listen to story after story as each juror lists their occupation, their spouse’s occupation, children, and any convictions. I listen in a way that sees souls and hears hearts. I remember I used to just think, “how interesting” as I listened. Now I held each story, a string of sentences in the palm of my hand, like a half opened jewelry box filled with pearls.
I wanted to stand up and say “Excuse me, since we’re all here talking about May 10, 2020 I’d like you all to know that was the last day I spent with my beautiful husband. Let me tell you about him.” I stayed seated and quiet.
The irony -I’m forever grateful for May 10, 2020.
That day with you was a beautiful day. Our last day here at home. No one stole anything from us that day. We only stole each other’s hearts one last time. Our story turns in my gritty soul, a pearl being polished in my ever present pain.
Are you here with me now? Hearing this.
Surrounded by quiet people in this historical building waiting to know if they would decide about what happened on May 10, 2020, I read about Rumi in the in betweens.
He has an epiphany- He IS the divine friendship that was. He is both now, himself and his lost soulmate. He IS the miracle of them. The author explains,”Rumi’s poetry grew in meaning, his longing radiant and vital, and reflected the depth of communion in their majestic relationship.”
I’m stopped- here is a truth, a comfort, extended to me here in this courtroom from a library book written about someone living in the 1200’s.
The idea that EVERYTHING that ever was, is and will be, was present “in the beginning “ -that there is literally nothing new, all was present, swirls around me. I wonder about the air in the room. You breathed this air- is it still here ?
The jury was chosen and we were excused. I walked through the park, two young men behind me talking about where they plan to move as soon as they have enough money. South Carolina, Montana, Tennessee. You are everywhere. Your cousin is on a plane this moment coming from South Carolina to visit. A life changed in Tennessee from your altruism, one of your kidneys extending her life.
I’m pretty sure the odds of putting 50 states in a bag and then pulling out two of the three of the most significant are pretty slim.
Am I here?
What will happen to these two young men? I watch them shake hands and part like I’m watching the parting of the Red Sea. What am I witnessing if every moment is sacred?
I change directions from heading to my car to the Arts Council. I don’t know why. They are closed. I turn the doorknob anyway. A board member greets me tentatively and we chat for some time, me trying to understand what this entity does, while the person behind the desk continues applying for a grant so they can stay open. Soon I put together I’m talking to the wife of a contractor you worked with. We talk about the shared ladder you two passed back and forth, about her husband, about you.
She says how it was so sudden and how she stays off ladders when she’s by herself now. I explain you could have been in the rafters, not on the ladder, we'll never know. But you were alone, alone on a ladder is not a good idea. I say maybe if someone had been there with you..…….
No, no you fell too hard.
How I wish we could have saved you.
How I wish you would have landed differently.
My mind tries to imagine fixing it, changing it.
I’m cradling your head for a moment.
I see her.
Am I really here?
Then I try to have a normal conversation about the art council, try to form questions to understand what they do. As an artist how can I participate? I feel like I’m speaking a foreign language, like I need a translator to form the question, because what am I even asking?
I feel dizzy.
There are chairs piled everywhere precariously, but nowhere to sit down.
A single fly tries it’s best to be the worst nuisance imaginable between the two of us. I feel like he’s flown into my brain and is cutting every circuit and I’m fighting to somehow find another route for my thoughts.
Can she see the signal blinking out from my eyes?
Can she hear it in the long pauses, the dashes between my words?
How can I connect to others through my art? Is there opportunity here? Is there a place where grief can splatter across a canvas and brushstrokes of memories can draw color out from a broken heart?
Are you here?
“Whenever sorrow comes, be kind to it. For God has placed a pearl in sorrow’s hand.
Don’t dismiss the heart, even if it’s filled with sorrow. God’s treasures are buried in broken hearts.
The moment you come into being here a ladder, a means of escape, is set up.”
“And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice.” Psalm 50:6
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Elie Weisel
Note : I painted a chair. It is available through auction and the proceeds will benefit the Tuolumne Arts Council which collaborates with local schools to bring arts to the students