Keats, sitting down to read King Lear again, feels torn between anticipation and the dread of immersing himself again in this scabrous tragedy.
Once again the fierce dispute,
Betwixt damnation and impassion’d clay
Must I burn through; once more humbly assay
The bitter-sweet of this Shakespearian fruit, he writes.
* * *
I feel like that when I work in memoir. Amid the richness of my childhood, amid its intensity, its chockfulness, memories of pain periodically surface, accompanied by pain and anger.
I have a file called “The Dark Side of the Moon,” for the major characters in my story, stuff that will not directly make it into my memoir. Because the golden rule and all that….
I read this file and feel the intense emotion that surfaces as one strips a scab from a wound. Anger, rage, fury, and discomfort bubble up. And sometimes I shake my head and smile. And in those cases, the hard work of forgiveness and understanding–hey, everyone in my story is as human and flawed and limited as I am–has been done. I remember as if it were a chapter in Jane Eyre–that I have read and read many times, and so no longer cry over. Once the stories have been processed and healed they no longer feel like my story.
* * *
Once, when I was 11, I woke, and “saw’ a silent figure cloaked in light stand at the foot of my bed. I decided it was my grandfather, who had recently died. I closed my eyes tightly, and he was gone.
Silly me, what if it were Jesus? Why didn’t I grab him and not let him go, as I do now when I “see” Jesus in my room (with the eyes of faith?
For, of course, Jesus was right there, standing there, through everything. The silent compassionate witness who stood there through all the pain and fury and despair, letting it happen, (but surely preventing worse). He knew that one day, he would take the clay of rage and grief and injustice into his own hands, shaping, shaping, shaping a redemptive jar from what seemed wasted mud.
Providing for those who grieve—
a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
I type out this passage from Isaiah, and I ask myself, severely, “Hey, do you really believe this, Anita? Or are you being poetic?”
And I answer, “Both. For I am healed, aren’t I? I am, indeed, in the process of being healed.”
* * *
God is good. All the time. This I believe. I know it partly from experience. And partly by faith.
And I believe the past is not really past. It is still alive, in memory, in the scars on our brains and spirit. And so, it can still be redeemed; diamonds can appear amidst the mire of the past, as diamonds are continually formed from the muck deep within the earth.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. All our lives are a continuum in his sight.
And he can today, turn with a smile to the mid-life woman who remembers events from her teens with rage and fury, and pour, pour, pour. Pour healing, pour forgiveness, poor restoration, so that I am entirely a new creation.
Come, Lord Jesus, journey with me into the past, the story of my Indian Catholic childhood which I feel compelled to tell. And as we go through it, pour healing, pour joy.
And when the past stretches out its long fingers, clutching me, preventing me from being who you want me to be, release me, re-shape me.
Healer of my soul, as you will one day make all things new, continue making me new.