Our daughter Eleanor died on 21st April of this year
M: There was something about this morning’s weather that made me think of you..
M: Well, it was a bit dim and dreepy (!) – no really, it was calm and misty early, and it was like one of those days when we’d planned to go climbing and we weren’t sure whether the mist would lift and make it worth while…….
E: I felt drawn back to it as well – of course we’re never actually far away, it’s a matter of paying attention. So I could see the mist on the river, the moisture on the grass, the shore birds standing quietly. And you, running on the sports field by the beach.
M: Doing my interval training. Now it’s 15 times 100 metres, with a short walk in between. It was good today because there was hardly any wind, softer under foot due to rain, and a strong smell of earth and seaweed.
E: Before, I loved all that but today, although I could “see” it, I couldn’t sense it and I was disappointed…
M: Explain if you can….
E: When you look at the natural world, first of all you’re glad to be away from concrete and asphalt, into the place of living things; and all your senses have evolved over millennia by interaction with your environment. You become a creature again among creatures. I can’t do that any more. Oh I can do lots of other things that you can only dream of…..
M: There’s always just a little bit of sadness in any interaction with nature..
E: Because you know you have to die. You sense a kind of mortal solidarity amongst things that perish. Their beauty is perfect but it doesn’t last. I bet you found yourself wondering how much longer you will have, to feel your physical self in its natural setting…
M: Do you have to so cheery? Aren’t you supposed to be full of joy in your new life? Even if you’re not playing a harp, you’re always praising God, eh?
E: Have you ever thought how boring it would be if people were praising you all the time? We simply enjoy being with God and God enjoys being with us; We share God’s love for the earth, but since we lack our flesh and blood bodies, we can’t love the way you do.
M: So after all there are things that are impossible for God?
E: God has particular memories of the earth -like me- but we can’t be mortal anymore. Still, we can share your experience if you let us.
M: And that means, I can actually give God, or you, something you don’t have. On a sunny June morning I can think of you and say, have some of this, my dears?
E: Or on a cold November day in the wind and the rain, you can say, share some of this crap…but whatever you do, don’t waste the once for all privilege of being human and mortal….the smell of new-mown grass..
M: You’ve told me something I didn’t know although you said that couldn’t happen!
E: I think when you consider it, you’ll find you knew it but forgot it. Isn’t there a poem you used to read to me that says, Death is the mother of beauty?
M: Don’t go…
E: I don’t go anywhere. Remember, we share all the time.
* the poem of which she spoke is Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens, a great atheist manifesto, which, as well as Death is the mother of beauty, includes these lines:
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.