Tuesday, August 21, 2012

VIGIL

There is a puzzle on the table in the living room.  A large one, with tiny pieces and impossible color gradients that make it somewhat uninviting.  And yet we drift in and out, sitting before it, trying this piece then that, until we eventually get a match or walk away. Or flop over on the couch. 
The wooden floors of Gram’s house echo the goings on: a cluster of great-grandchildren playing a game on the family room rug; the clanging of dishes in the kitchen, George’s mandolin trembles in some unidentifiable place.  Ann Marie’s hands roll in and out of the edges of a baby blanket, her fingers guiding her crochet hook. There is a swirl of motion, gentle and uninhibited, so graceful and alive that if you set a camera on slow, slow shutter speed you would have a sort of Spir-o-graph picture of the people we love loving the people we love. We are spokes, swirling around a hub, each of us going in and out from the center.  And she is center.
Gram lies in her bed, her soft white hair like a halo on her pillow, her eyes closed and her forehead smooth and calm.  Her hands lie gentle on her midriff.  We watch them rise and fall, rise and fall.  I sit beside her, my brothers and sisters and children taking turns in the circle.  No plan.  We’ve never been that good at keeping plans.  No shifts or schedules, yet she is never alone.  Never alone.
I slip my hand under hers and hold it in a sacred grip, her slender fingers interlace with mine.  I trace the veins with my thumb.
In and out we go and come, until someone picks up a guitar and starts to sing to Mom.  Then, as if the Pied Piper has pursed his lips against his pipe, we gather in her large, gracious bedroom, and the other guitars make their way in, and the mandolin, too.  And the voices and the songs.  We cluster around her, comforting her with our song… comforting each other…comforting ourselves. Then the comfort turns to joy when the Johns play and we sing full voiced and our hands no longer tickle our guitar strings but pull them full bore and passionately, like she would if she had ever gotten past the two chords I tried to teach her when I was 16.
Too bad it’s not September, when the air has cooled enough for the windows to be left open.  What songs our neighbors would hear!
Grandson John pulls the strings of his instrument and begins…They say everything can be replaced….  We join in with harmony at the chorus…I see my light come shining from the west down to the east.  Any day now, any day now, I shall be released. 
Like chicks around a hen, like petals on a flower, like the waters of the Snake River swirl around an outcropping of rock and earth, we are helpless to leave her and will stay here until she leaves us.  Just a while.  Just a small parting, small, but very, very deep. 
Not far from here her mother will call and tell her to come, and we know we must let her go.  Until then we will keep this vigil, we who cherish her, and sing her to the gate.

10 comments:

  1. It is a most sacred and sweet vigil. Love to you and all of your dear mother's family.

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  2. i'm not surprised at all, but this truly is exceptionally lovely writing. i'm so lucky to know you and to be on the outer sphere, a joyful clinger-on-er to the love that your family emanates. luff you.

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  3. How sweet to read this Cori. Your family has a rare bond and the music certainly enhanced it. Bless you all.

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  4. Thank you for letting me be a part of the wonderful send-off. It was an experience I shall forever treasure and you have described it beautifully. I am so grateful I was able to know your mother. I have learned much from her and also from you. Love you so much.

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  5. Wow! That made me cry. We lost our mom last year and held a similar vigil in a hospital in SLC. We played music for her and we also sang, even though our voices aren't so sweet. We talked to her and each other and for 36 hours we held our breath everytime she held hers. It's so hard, so very hard. If your mom has left you, I am so sorry. I will keep you all in my thoughts. Your cousin, Sandra

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  6. Oh Cori, you have such a way with words and describe things so beautifully, I'm sure everything was just as it should have been. I'm sorry for your loss but I'm grateful that Gram has released the shackles of her mortal body and can move as freely as she wants now. We love you all and we will miss Gram as well.

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  7. My mother has only me, singing "The Old Mill Stream." Though once, Dad and Kev and I were all there - while Keven cut her hair, and we were all harmonizing, and she joined in, dropping her head back, closing her eyes - she looked like a little coyote, putting her whole soul into that song - which she remembers. If it is the only thing. I envy you this temple convocation of family, and this certain time with no other end. I have to drift in and out, over years and years - an endless dream my mother walks, as though no one is beckoning (which I know isn't true) - more like, because she's anchored by my father who, after decades of being the boss, now finds himself helpless.

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  8. Your mother was (and is) an angel, first on earth, now in heaven. I will forever be grateful that I knew her. I have so many fond memories of her and will remember her always. She gave us a book of poetry 20 years ago and told us how much good poetry meant to her. I have moved that book to California and back to Utah again. It sits on our bookshelf and will always remind me of your sweet mother. Thanks for sharing her, Cori, and please know of the love the Booker's have for her and for your sweet family.

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  9. There is a sacred moment when I choose to read your words. I have just experienced it once again. Although today, I was privileged to hear beautifully written words from your lips at your mom's funeral. The vigil sounds like a beautiful day in the lives of the Hansen children/grandchildren, etc., Those who were there experienced true beauty in her last moments here on earth. You all have such a gift of making things beautiful. I think its your love of words, music and the two of them intertwined together in melody. Amazing that you are all so gifted. I listened today to the granddaughters sing so sweetly. The words spoken and sung today touched my heart and I knew she was there so close she could have touched each one of us. What a tribute to her incredible beautiful life. She has left an incredible legacy that she can be proud of. I'm grateful I have rubbed shoulders with her and all of you. It's wonderful when you feel like you're family. I loved the days when we got to see more of her, and I feel as though she'll be one of those just beyond the other side of the veil when I step through it myself. I picture heaven to be a snippit of some of the folks I saw today. Good people in Farmington. It is a significant part of my life and I will be cemented to all of them, but for some reason when I speak of Cori and Libby, there is a sisterhood that connects me that is not easily explained. Thanks for your wonderful examples of service, love and talent (plus a million other things). May you all feel comfort and joy in the life Gram lived and showed us all how to live. I love you.

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  10. Thank you for capturing this wonderfully sad but ever so spiritually sweet moment in time for those of us who were able to share this special day with our Mom. Your words bring every face into view, the cacophony of laughter, tears, and muffled voices, and the melody of each song to my ear. Thanks for sharing you gift as I'll be able to relive different snip its of life with Mom each time I retread this "Vigil".
    Love you. Sherry

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