healing haven

June 24, 2008

The Hall of Remembrances (9)

 

Come, m’lady.  The child took a step, pulling on Thalia’s hand as the others started moving further within the catacombs.  Thalia stood up, grasped the torch and followed, being led by the child who pulled ahead yet glanced back at her shyly.

 

She sent out her thought to the child.  What is your name?  A mumbled something touched her awareness.  The woman’s thought was clearer:  Later.  Just come.  We’ve waited a long time.

 

They walked in physical and mental silence, turning down one tunnel after another.  After a while, as the darkness deepened, she couldn’t help but wonder how she would return to the entrance, but figured it would happen naturally.  She thought of the stories she encouraged from hospice patients, volunteers and staff.  Of how patient memoirs were so treasured by their loved ones after the patient died, sometimes even revealing stories the loved ones didn’t know about.  She thought of how her own memoir process unearthed the web of patterns that helped clear misconceptions and resentments she had carried. 

 

Yes, we saw that in you, that which Is what we need done for us.  The man’s thought broke through her own.  Some of us have been waiting a long time to understand what happened in our lives and sometimes even in our dying.

 

Thalia felt momentarily confused.  But I record their stories before they die, not after. 

 

The woman stopped and turned around.  But you told the stories of your ancestors after they were dead.  And you’ve written poems and stories about when your loved ones appeared in a so-called “dream” and shared with you.  What is so different? 

 

Nothing, I guess.  I just never thought of this aspect until now that you mentioned it.  And never thought a walking tour in the City of Ladies would lead to this deep part of the catacombs.   I remember being intrigued by Orson Scott Card’s book Speaker for the Dead.  What a great book.

 

The woman resumed walking forward.  Just come.  You’ll see.

 

After a few more twists and turns they entered a large cavern with many, mostly marble, sarcophagus’ and statues along the walls and throughout the room.  Marble benches were scattered around.  No one else was in the place.  The trio escorted her to a bench in front of a large, ornate statue of a weeping angel. 

 

 

The little girl’s hand started trembling.  Thalia looked from the statue to the child still clinging to her hand.  Looking back at the engraving, she read: 

                                       MARIA ESTAL…   (part was missing) 

                                            9 YEARS OLD  

                                 MUCH BELOVED DAUGHTER

 

Is this your tombstone?

 

The child bobbed her head.  She seemed small for her age.  Thalia sat down on the bench and drew Maria close.  What would you like to share with me?

 

With tears running down her face, Maria’s thoughts gushed forth.  It says my papa loved me but how could that be?  When he did those things to me?  The priest said it was wrong and papa was bad.  He couldn’t have loved me.  Her weeping escalated into sobbing, so holding her and waiting was appropriate.  Finally the sobs subsided.  Then the sickness came for mamma and me.  They all said it was because papa was bad but he cried when we were sick on the bed.  Then mamma died of fever and I got worse.  Papa said he loved me but the priest said he was bad and didn’t love me.  Was I bad?  Is that why papa did bad things to me?  Is that why I died?

 

No, you were good.  Your papa did things he shouldn’t have but you were good.  It wasn’t your fault he did those things to you or that you and your mama died.  Tell me more about your papa.

 

Maria wiped her sleeve across her nose and continued.  Mama said papa had been in a war, fighting far away.  When he came home he was different.  Then there was another baby coming and papa started touching me.  Mama was busy with the baby and didn’t see.  They argued about things that happened during the war, but I didn’t understand.  There was a long pause.  Are you sure I am good and not bad?

 

Yes, I am sure.  And even though your father did some bad things doesn’t make him all bad.  His actions were bad but he could have also loved you.  And sometimes war changes people and makes them act bad.  After being away in a war you might have looked so clean and fresh that he just was glad to be home, and he wanted to be part of your innocence and freshness.  What he did was very bad, but he could still love you.  Maybe he was sorry about what he did.  Look at the weeping angel—maybe he picked it out because  it represents him weeping for what he had done.  Can you understand that?  Thalia thought of all the adults who could only see the world in black or white, and couldn’t understand shades of gray in people or allow for forgiveness.  Their anger festered for years, or even for their whole lifetime, and made their lives bitter and the lives of the people around them miserable.  They couldn’t separate the action from the person.  If adults couldn’t understand, how could a child?

 

I think so… maybe.  I’ll try.  I always thought the angel was weeping because I was so bad. 

 

No, that’s not why the angel is weeping.  We grow when we can learn to forgive.  It’s hard, but important.  Forgiveness heals us and is more important for us than for the person we forgive, but both are important.

 

Maria moved to gently touch the weeping angel and the engraving of her name and where it said she was the beloved daughter.  As she sighed, she smiled.  Thank you, m’lady.

 

No, I am not a “m’lady.”  I am just a woman on a walking tour of the City of Ladies.  Now I am not sure where I am.

 

A new-energy thought chimed in.  We will call this place the Hall of Remembrances.  Will you come back and help us tell our stories?  There are many stories here needing to be told.

 

She looked up to see many other pale figures emerging from the walls and statues, clustering around this latest thought-speaker.   He appeared to be the one with authority.  In his outstretched hand was a coin that seemed to have real substance.   Remember us! 

 

The coin was suddenly in her hand, solid and heavy.   A male head on one side and a woman standing on the other side. 

 

 

She looked at him, as he stood there with more physical essence than the others.  That’s Apollo on the one side; the muse Thaleia, as I know her, on the other.  Take this coin and remember us.  We await your return.  Others like yourself are welcome, also.       

 

I will return now and again, and perhaps others will also come to help you.  Thank you all for sharing with me and inviting me.  For now I need to return and continue the tour.  But I will be back to the Hall of Remembrances for more of your stories. 

 

And suddenly she was back at the entrance to the catacombs, coin in hand, ready for the next adventure, even as she wondered why Apollo and Thalia were on the same coin.

 

 

 

(see also http://cityofladies.wordpress.com/2008/06/25/the-hall-of-remembrances/#comments)

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1 Comment »

  1. Such a beautiful story, Thalia. You’ve taken a little girl’s sorrow and confusion and turned it to understanding and forgiveness. You must be a wonderful hospice worker. My dad was on hospice at home and I’ll never forget the nurses who came. It’s a true calling demanding compassion and wisdom and you obviously have both.

    Comment by porchsitter — June 25, 2008 @ 5:48 am |Reply


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