Among the rich threads of thinking in Rick Greene’s latest blog is his account of his own Tolle Lege: I won’t impinge on his post by doing more than pointing to the My God, My God why have you forsaken me? It is a well placed stroke, well written – unlike this, which is just a personal ramble, with no answer.
And I just wanted to add something to that intimation of loss. March is, for me, Theo time, when I remember the little boy who we waited for, and watched grow, and who in the end came and went in a day: born 20th March, died 21st, 2000. We can do the folklore: a child of the eclipse, a child of the vernal equinox. We can do the grief, the anger, the bewilderment.
Today, however, with Lent beginning and the dreadful news of so many children buried in a common grave in Tuam, it was too confused in my mind to make sense of. I am gobby, and it is unusual that words fail me, but I could not finish my bidding prayer at Mass. It was a poor show for all those girls, and for the institutional callous indifference, and for all that human loss. How many children were lost, and died sick or frightened, how many mothers lost and angry and disempowered and bewildered? The only consolation- and it is a thin gruel – was that as I stumbled to silence I looked up at the big, modern cross at the back of church and found that silence echoed back. My silence. Theo’s silence. All his brothers and sisters put away like so much landfill, and then (and now) the sisters’ own silence.
So here’s a blog post that goes nowhere, but which I’m going to post tonight. Tomorrow we go – finally – to see a stone carver to ask for a headstone that reflects the sermon at Theo’s funeral, from Bede’s account of the conversion of the North:
Cuius suasioni uerbisque prudentibus alius optimatum regis tribuens assensum, continuo subdidit: ‘Talis,’ inquiens, ‘mihi uidetur, rex, uita hominum praesens in terris, ad conparationem eius, quod nobis incertum est, temporis, quale cum te residente ad caenam cum ducibus ac ministris tuis tempore brumali, accenso quidem foco in medio, et calido effecto caenaculo, furentibus autem foris per omnia turbinibus hiemalium pluuiarum uel niuium, adueniens unus passerum domum citissime peruolauerit; qui cum per unum ostium ingrediens, mox per aliud exierit. Ipso quidem tempore, quo intus est, hiemis tempestate non tangitur, sed tamen paruissimo spatio serenitatis ad momentum excurso, mox de hieme in hiemem regrediens, tuis oculis elabitur. Ita haec uita hominum ad modicum apparet; quid autem sequatur, quidue praecesserit, prorsus ignoramus. Unde si haec noua doctrina certius aliquid attulit, merito esse sequenda uidetur.’
The text – and more – appear in translation and with comment in Eleanor Parker’s wonderful blog. We have asked for a sparrow for the headstone. The image of one sparrow feels like it stands for so many sparrows, in one window and out the other. Talis vita hominum, such is the life of men.
Still no answer.