I discovered today’s scribble on the back of an old photograph as I was switching pictures out in a frame. I have a bad habit of letting pictures pile up in frames, so I’m never quite sure what I will discover when I switch one out. The photograph (shown above) was from a trip I was given to Ireland several years ago. My mom had just passed away a little less than two months before this picture was snapped. I would describe myself now as a walking shell on that trip; grateful certainly to be given a childhood dream, but also a raw and wrecked twenty-something kid and not a little bit lost.
We visited many ruins on this trip and I literally have dozens of pictures of gravestones and graveyards and ancient holy places left crumbled across the landscape. It was my obsession on the trip. There has always been something almost comforting and familiar to me about ruins; ancient places bound in sorrow and rich history. There we were, St. Patty’s Week tourists, wandering through remnants of centuries of history… all alive and breathing, snapping photos before retreating into the warmth of a gift shop or cafe to buy our trinkets and mementos and steaming cups of tea. But I resonated instead with the dark song these broken places were singing, not the warmth in the living distance. Deeply so…
I remember capturing this particular picture specifically for some reason. I’d gotten separated from my traveling companions for the moment and was left alone with the stone and earth and the sounds of wind and rain. Sleet stung my face like knives slicing through skin, but I didn’t care. The wind only sharpened the frigid sting and my need to absorb every ounce of the moment. I remember thinking this spot was where I belonged … the sleet and fog, the toppled gravestones and ruins of an old church… the lands of my ancestors surrounding me. The relics of someone’s need to remember someone they loved whispered to me from the stone. Strange as it sounds, I recall this incredibly strong compulsion to simply lie down in those ruins ….. and sleep.
I also recall the day I wrote this scribble. I was packing away the apartment I had lived in for the majority of my post-college life. The apartment I lived in through the roughest years of my mother’s sickness. The apartment I grieved in. After almost 8 years, it was time to go. Time to leave those haunted walls. Time to learn to live again. While sorting through a box of pictures and old letters, I found the picture above, the moment I captured it rushing back to me in force. Grabbing a nearby sharpie I’d been using to label boxes, I scribbled the following thoughts …
…because ruins have always been meant to teach us that life is designed to be lived, death is engrained in us to be remembered, and that even the darkest places within us can be resurrected into new light.
In life you were my lesson in perseverance,
How to walk while still bleeding,
How to laugh through anger,
How to live with pain a constant companion,
How to choose compassion when instinct screamed to hate.
In death you are my daily lesson on how to rebuild;
How to love the scars and carry their story as strength and not weakness,
How to extract joy from every day,
How to navigate the Darkness,
And how to let the Light illuminate the shattered pieces…
So that others might see…
And choose to love anyway.