Saturday, July 14, 2007


I didn’t sleep well or much last night. Around 5 I fell asleep for about 30 minutes, and had the first dream about my brother since he died. Fully awake now, the pieces are still just pieces, but dreaming of him brought this memory back. This is not sunshine and flowers friends, so if that’s why you came, move along, nothing here to see.

The year before Mark died; he went to visit the home and now private museum of his favorite author, Herman Melville. Moby Dick was Mark’s favorite story, and his favorite book to teach to his students. Every year, he promised an ‘A’ to any student in the class who could find the part in the book where Melville switches from first person to third. I’d happily share that secret with you, but I wasn’t one of his ‘A’ students.

Sitting in my brother’s house just days after his death the discussion of what to do with Mark’s ashes was settled without discussion the second Steve Clicks suggested they be scattered at Melville’s home. Some things you know are right the instant you hear them. I don’t remember Steve saying anything else that week, but I remember this as clearly as I remember what happened yesterday. Looking at it now, it feels like this is why he was there that day.

My sister Julie made the arrangements, Arrowhead is a privately funded museum, and she explained to them who Mark was and what it would mean to us to leave him there. They couldn’t have been more generous, gracious or willing to help my family ease our suffering.

We went in June.
Early June in New England is only summer during the hours of noon and 3pm, before and after those hours, it’s late winter, or at least fall, with temps falling to 40 degrees and reminding me why I live in the South.

When my family visited, one of the curators met us 90 minutes before the official opening, offering a private tour of the house /museum and then leaving us to say our goodbyes privately and scatter his ashes in the field behind Melville’s home.

All I remember of the first floor is dark wood and fireplaces, but I dutifully climbed the stairs behind my remaining family feeling the weight of things I could not measure. As we all settled into the study around the tour guide I found myself staring at the floorboards, whispering to myself under my breath to look, to see that room the way he had seen it, just a year earlier.

I lifted my head, looked across the room to Melville’s carefully staged desk and out the window behind it, to Mt. Greylock, I felt my chest tighten, and suddenly, all the oxygen was gone from the room.

That view, that room. My brother.

I turned and fled the room, headed for the stairs we had just ascended. It got better when I got outside, to the fields surrounding the house. I tried to hear my friend Eileen’s voice in my head telling me when things got difficult to focus on my breathing. By the time my family reappeared, I had control.

I remember people reading passages from favorite books, and others with a few words to say as they scattered the remains of my brother into the wind on a hillside in New England. My mom cried while she talked about the joy Mark had given her. Mark’s best friend Bob held me as I cried, watching my mom, useless and helpless against either of our pain. I carried my youngest niece down the hill her legs wrapped around my waist; she wiped away my tears and said “He shouldn’t have died when he did.” Showing me that wisdom can come from anywhere, even sad seven year old nieces. Later that evening I would help that niece move caterpillars off the sidewalk in front of the restaurant we would eat dinner in. She couldn’t live with the fact that someone might step on them. So we moved them to the grass, one by one, for an hour and a half.
It made her feel better to have an ally, and helping her made me feel better.


Roo said...

thank you for sharing. i get it. xo

rennratt said...

I get it, too.

It is grief, yes.

But love and empathy trumped it in the end.

6truck said...

Thank You. Now it's time for me to go and read 'Against Funerals' for the forty-eleventh time...


tiff said...

Do we come here for sunshine and flowers? I submit we do not.

We come here for real things. This, in all its glory and depth, is real, especially the caterpillars.

cloudy said...

Finally able to dream of him; hope it was a good visit.

Scottsdale Girl said...

I dreamed of my mother 2 days after her deat and haven't been able to conjure her up since.

Loved the story Cravey. *wipes tear from eye*

CactusTri said...

Powerful stuff. Well written.