Monday, October 17, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bring me the sunflower
Bring me the sunflower so I may transplant it
in my native soil burnt by the sea-salt,
let it display all day to the mirroring blue spaces
of the sky the anxiety of its yellow face.
Obscure things tend towards clarity,
bodies dissolve themselves in a weightless flow
of colors: these then into music. To vanish
is thus the supreme fate of all fates.
Bring me the plant that points to where
pale transparencies rise to the heights
and life itself evaporates like air;
bring me the sunflower crazed with light.

Eugenio Montale
[ translated from the Italian by Margaret Brose ]

My father was the youngest of 12 children, 9 of whom lived beyond childhood. I had 8 aunts and uncles on that side - they are all dead now. What a bunch of characters – 7 born in Scotland and 2, including my father, born in Montreal. And so I had/have LOTS of First Cousins. The oldest alive is in his mid-eighties, and the youngest in her fifties. I’m in the middle at 65.

One of my First Cousins, Norine, age 84, is approaching death to this earthly life, age 84. She has an aggressive lymphoma. We have chatted every month or so for years, talking about the family. She has always been fascinated by the McHugh family - and we have often laughed at the craziness, and talked about shortbread recipes, and Friday night card parties in Verdun, Seagram’s rye and ginger ale being the grown-ups’ very Canadian drink preference. By rights, given all the serious health issues I’ve had, she could easily have outlived me. But probably she won’t. I will miss her, and especially her sense of humour and joie de vivre.

“To vanish is thus the supreme fate of all fates”. The blue sunny sky is a symbol of the place to which we, those “pale transparencies”, all move, where “life itself evaporates like air”. The greatest freedom is to be free, as soon as possible in this mortal life, of the downward pull of the fear of Death.

We are each the “sunflower crazed with light” ….. or so we are meant to be. Displaying “all day to the mirroring blue spaces of the sky the anxiety of its yellow face”. We know we will die. But we face to the Light. We live every day given fearlessly. Jesus and so many others teach us to deny Death any power over our Living.

My prayer today, as I think of Norine: “Give us Life. Make us ‘the sunflower crazed with light’.


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