April 7, 2012

Cleaning



There is a jar, an old canning glass jar, maybe six by three and clean as the day it was made. It's full of small rocks that Stella and I have picked out from Margot's River over the last year, at the spot where her ashes first entered into the earth. There are some faded black stones, sharp and pointy and ugly.  They lie at the bottom of the jar, like the dark foundation of grief. There are a few small white stones strewn about, little gems that are often hidden in the water, under larger rocks or branches. The kind you have to search for with diligence, and then work to get them out, getting your feet wet, moving debris out of the way.

Most of the stones that fill the jar are black and white, both colors colliding off one another like shadows. The hues unexpectedly come together beautifully, the darkness and lightness, the gloom and the hope, the joy and the heartache. There is one particular large stone, of the black and white variety, that currently lies at the top of the heap, the one we picked out on her birthday.

There are other things in her corner.

A tea light candle inside an old glass vase. The hundredth, or maybe the thousandth one that has been lit for her. A tiny medicine bottle with an equally tiny wildflower. A photograph of water and sky. A necklace and handmade ornament with her name stamped onto them.

A small wooden hope chest sits on the shelf, just across from the rocks, in front of the picture, as near to the candle as it can be. It was a gift from my mother, from Budapest. It's brown and ornate with a copper colored clasp. Inside is my M.

Little gray specs of her, white bone fragments, the ashes, my most treasured possession.

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I father Stella by talking to her, feeding her, changing her, teaching her, showing her, by wrapping my arms around her whole body and hugging her as tight as I possibly can. I Father Stella by whispering in her ear every night the same phrase since the evening she was born. You are my favorite girl in the whole world.

I father Margot by cleaning.

I carefully lift up sacred objects and dust underneath them. I spray and wipe the glass frame until it shines. I scrub the rocks until they glisten. I attentively hang her necklace so her name is facing out instead of in. The dried up wax gets picked at and pulled out until the vase is clean and ready for more. I wipe and dust and scrub her space because there is little else to do.

Cleaning and cleaning, always cleaning.

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9 comments:

B. Wilson said...

Beautiful.

Jeanette said...

Yes. I do this too.
You made me smile when you describe hugging Stella tight as you can, my Dad used to do that to me.

Rachel said...

Thanks for sharing. I love Margot's little box, and I think you are a great Father to her!

Catherine W said...

Your daughters are lucky. Both of them. I just wish that you could look after Margot in the same way that you can Stella.

I would never have believed that my most treasured possession would be ashes but yes, mine too.

Jamie said...

Oh Margot...we wish you were here.

Tash said...

Oh, this is heartbreakingly beautiful. You are a good father Josh. To both Stella and Margot.

I do this too. I clean. I make sure everything is just so. Liam's urn is in a small enclosed Indian shrine. It has a little door, and I open and close the door now and then. It's become a ritual of sorts. It's one of the ways I mother him.

Sending hope and light in these coming weeks.

Anonymous said...

and this is how we parent our children who have died...

it is just as important and meaningful as if they were alive.

in a certain light, these acts could be seen as sad, and small. but, cleaning, or placing flowers, or lighting candles, or hugging teddy bears that touched our baby's body while they were still warm from the womb... these acts are crucial and life-sustaining for us, the parents.

thank you for sharing how you parent your beautiful daughter margot. you are a good dad. and i know kari is a good mom, too. as well is stella, such a good big sister, already.

Groves said...

I stand accused of cleaning to muster some sliver of control over an uncontrollable world.

"At least (this hour, anyway) the dishes are done. At least the counter is not sticky. At least the floor is laundry-free."

Maybe the messed-up-ness of life is a tiny bit less, for maybe a minute, in that little corner

but never in my head.

Your cleaning doesn't strike me as control. It all speaks love.

Your children are rich in their parents.

My husband's beard is growing here, too. I did not perceive it as a beard of hope - until I saw yours. Now, I think of your family every time I see his much-loved face.

Cleaning, also, but not clearing headway,

Cathy in Missouri

Mary Beth said...

Love this. I so get it. And I love the Margot June necklace. It is just lovely and perfect.
xo

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