When a soul leaves this world so do his stories. Those little tidbits of fact and fiction that were a part of the journey on the paths of his life, a part of who he was, unique only to him. Gone.
About two or three months before Daddy died, I took this laptop over to Blackberry Flats and sat in the recliner at the foot of his hospital bed in the living room. He was gazing out the window as he usually did. I told him I’d brought the computer to record his stories. (I type faster than I can write.) He knew such great stories about our great-grandparents and other kin from generations a ways back. He had done tedious research and traveled to cemeteries all around and put together these great stories. He had also taken some of the stories Granddaddy Cleveland told and made them his own. Daddy was a storyteller. I aimed to get those down for my children and future grands and so on.
But I had waited too late. Either the stories were fading or his will to tell them, I wasn’t sure which it was, but he shook his head ever so slightly and turned back to the window. And my heart broke. All those stories, gone with him when he left us and went on up to the House.
Today more stories left this world with a soft breath and a gentle yet painful letting go. Stories that were tangled up with mine for a time. Some that were known only between us, now those stories are mine alone. When Daddy left and then Mama, some of the stories got fuzzy and I no longer had someone to ask, Do you remember…..What was his name…..When did we go…..How old was I when…..Did Granddaddy really say a mule fell down a hole in the middle of downtown? All those questions that can never be answered again. Lost.
And today more of those stories. Gone. Like the rice, and pizza with sardines and coke and Star Trek, a dog that understood and answered questions and was missed when she was gone, the cat that acted like a dog, the little dog that ate the little boy’s hot dog, the little girl with the maybe not so imaginary friends, the first pink in four generations, the boat adventures, the airplane, whoa man, the little boy who burped the first time I met him and said, “It was just a ‘ittle one Daddy,” the phone call that came about a heartbreaking loss–even though our stories were no longer as intertwined, the fascination with the Frugal Gourmet, the love of the Allman Brothers, the smell of peaches in the air. And so many more.
I wonder where all of these stories go. In the movie Epic, the character voiced by Steven Tyler (I know, right?), Nim Galuu, is a glowworm. He is in charge of something like the hall of the Book of Life. All of life is recorded on these scrolls–past, present, and future. Wonder what it would be like if those scrolls really did exist? I could ride down in the little car (with Steven, ahem, I mean Nim) to the lower levels of this amazing library and re-read the stories of old and remember what Daddy said happened to Grandma Jane or what exactly was so amusing about the story about the mule that Granddaddy told. I could relive the spelling bee in the sixth grade where my cousin was also competing and I am pretty sure he won. I could re-read the conversation between me and Daddy about the one thing that has been on my mind that I think he told me. I could go to the old book sale with my Aunt again for the first time ever. So many stories I would sit and rediscover. As for the ones from the future, I don’t think so–they would either spoil the fun or keep me from getting out of the bed some mornings. No, it’s the ones from the past I want to remember and revisit.
Well maybe not all of them, not the hard ones. It’s best to let those go and not dwell on them overmuchly. And there were hard ones, many of them, in the ones that left us today. And I’m okay with those being let go.
It’s like my oldest said today.
“In the end, you only remember the good stuff–which makes it so much harder.”
The song she mentioned is “The Scientist” performed by Coldplay and written by Guy Rupert Berryman, Jonathan Mark Buckland, William Champion, and Christopher Anthony John Martin. Today was my first time hearing this song, and I’m not sure which part of the song spoke to her, but these words stuck with me today:
Tonight I give thanks that the happy memories float up from the dust of long ago just when they are needed the most. There is healing grace in that. Redemption. And I am even more thankful that in the midst of those intertwined stories written on the pages of the Book of Life, though there are many hard and broken and sad, there are also many happy and funny and joy-filled ones to come home to. The ones that make it hard to say goodbye. That’s what I’m the most grateful for. And that will do for a Wednesday like no other.