Marking Time

Today marks five years since my brother’s passing.

Five years since I was working with my husband thinning out the hostas on an unseasonably warm April Saturday and I got the call that my brother was in the ER and that things didn’t look good, that I’d better come down quick.

Five years since I threw a bunch of random clothes in a bag and jumped in my car headed for St. Louis, only to be informed, as I’m turning onto the highway, that he had gone. That I was driving into the epicenter of a disaster that shook – that still shakes – our family to its core.

Five years since I sat awake that night on my parents’ couch, thinking of the devastation wrought upon them and my brother’s family.

I’ve written about my brother, or the way Grief and I have become close, over the last five years. I was thinking about which of those posts I might re-share today, which of those posts might best suit how I’m feeling.

And I suppose the one that I keep coming back to is the one that started it all. The one I composed that very first night, after talking countless times with my sisters over the phone, after sitting with my sister-in-law, and her son in their home, after being with my parents, and all of their grief. This one.

It surprises me how deeply it still reflects the way I see relationships, the way I see grief and compassion. I’ll leave it here for you today. Maybe some of you are in a space where you need it too:

So I heard this story the other day
About a guy
Who saw a lama for his pain.

And the lama
Had trained his heart
To grow big as the sea
So it could shoulder the
Burdens of the suffering
And replace them
With love.

The lama
Asked for the guy’s hands
And took them
Into his
And he asked for the guy’s grief
And took it
Into his heart
And the guy felt better.

I want to do that.

Not to be the guy.

The lama.

Let my heart swell
Limitless
Let love flood.

Place your hands into mine.
I will ask for your pain
And my heart will open wide
Wider
Wider
And swallow your pain
In love.

(C) 2015, Lainie Levin.

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5 Responses to “Marking Time”

  1. theapplesinmyorchard Says:

    Beautiful story. I am sorry for your loss and the anniversary that reminds you of your brother’s passing. Your story is inspired!

  2. Fran Haley Says:

    The anniversaries are awful. We know they’re coming and that they must be gotten though. Grief is a fluid Presence. It pours over us in random waves – sometimes lessening, sometimes surging over and though us with fresh power … I am sorry for the milestone that not only must be noted but passed. Time is a friend and not a friend. I am sorry for your family; your parents — I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child. I know you wanted to absorb it – your anguished poem makes it so clear, as I recall thinking the first time I read it. Now, again, I think – you are like that lama. Did you ever watch The Green Mile when John Coffey “absorbs” the cancer from the corrections officer’s (Tom Hanks) wife by inhaling it from her mouth and blowing it back out into the air like little moths or spots of light? Transformed and dissolved into the universe ,,. that is what you do, Lainie – you absorb this pain, and life itself, and transform it through your writing. It is your gift of healing. Strength and love to you. And to yours.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      I’ve always wanted to see The Green Mile – maybe now is the time?

      Thank you for your kind words – I just remember feeling this desire so keenly in those hours. Just feeling like I wanted to sit with my family and just be, just absorb. And I thankfully had others who could do the same for me.

      I believed then, and I still believe now, that we can cultivate a sense of compassion that allows our own selves to expand when we absorb others’ sorrow, that lets us take on the burdens of others without becoming overwhelmed. Still working on it…

      • Fran Haley Says:

        I can’t ever watch certain scenes again in The Green Mile BUT- when you are in a frame of mind for both beauty and horror – watch it 🙂

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