Thanks to Katie for reminding me to turn to the writings of the Celtic poet and philosopher, John O’ Donohue; in particular his last work before his untimely death, Benedictus: A Book of Blessings, has stirred in me a feeling of deep connection to the sacredness of life and death. John died at the age of 53 in 2008, and writing about his brother’s loss, Pat O’Donohue says:
For those of us plunged into grief, a cold icicle pierces our center and forces the lungs to suck in their last breath of innocent air. This last gasp must sustain us as we rise from the despairing dark towards the blue light of the surface. Our body reaches back into its history to reclaim the learned lessons of survival. We feel the pores of the body closing in on themselves in an effort at self-protection against the on-coming pain. This is our oldest, most primitive reaction, born as a child of the desire for self-survival. John describes this time as the winter-season of the heart. This is the time to lie low by the shelter of the wall and let the worst of the onslaught pass. The walls that John knew here in the Caherragh Valley are the single, loosely built stone walls full of winking openings which allow the passage of light and air. These walls filter the most intense of the driven fury unlike the solid double-wall which would block out everything. For me, this is the journey of my grief — I have no control, it cannot be processed, dealt with or made sense of. Grief is the flowing of the tears of loss realizing itself in my being as a new definitive existence. This loss is the gap that cannot be filled and never should be.
Pat describes how they used a ‘ciseach’ when bringing out turf (peat) from the bog with donkeys and baskets.
The journey of the turf laden donkey from the bank of turf to the solid road would often be mined with soft, marshy spots into which the donkey would sink. To enable him to travel safely over it, we would gather sticks and rushes to form a strong layer of skin over the marshy spot. This was a temporary measure. It had to be patched up regularly with fresh bandages of newly cut rushes. We need a temporary ‘ciseach’ as a patch on the boggy ground of grief to help us to solid ground. We must recognize that we are patching just to be able to mind what it is that we are carrying, knowing that it will not be a permanent bridge.”
Reading these words brought a fresh wave of gratitude to all of you who are acting right now as my ciseach, patching up the boggy ground of my grief until I can find solid ground again.
Heartfelt thanks to you all xxx