Reconciliation with the angels
Maritsa died yesterday. She was an amazing woman.
Suffice to say, her death is not mine to to share. What I will share is that she’s been my family since before I was a notion, my third grandmother, a spectacularly elegant lady who left, not suddenly, but too soon.
I’m having a difficult time of it. More so than I imagined, and despite my stoic mask. And not because it’s hard to lose beautiful human beings (though it is), or because I didn’t say a proper goodbye, or for some other easy platitude with which to mask my grief.
Rather, I’m battling an angel on my shoulder.
Maritsa was a deeply religious woman. She observed the Orthodox fast – she lived and breathed the church – her daughter married a priest - she sprinkled basil water in the deepest recesses of all the homes of all the people she loved – she died, I am sure, at deep-seated peace with her God.
I make no secret that religion troubles me. It does. Strangely, though, her reverence and devotion never troubled me in any great way.
Last night, I hung up my phone on an oddly-quiet College streetcar, having just been told by my mom that Maritsa died that morning. And my mind, without filter or regard, said a silent she’s with the angels and I crossed my heart – Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
And I just lost it.
I’ve spent the better part of the last 24 hours wrapped in a troubling cognitive dissonance. I can’t bring myself to be dogmatic about this beautiful woman’s death. I start to think it’s okay if I want her to be with the angels, that I want to imagine Maritsa her heaven without it reeking of hypocrisy. There isn’t any reason for me to even wrestle with this. I will heal, as we humans do – I will placate the screaming angel on my shoulder.
There’s this wonderful line from Dickinson: Parting is all we know of heaven. I’m parsing its meaning to suit my story (don’t we all do this with poetry?) but I think it fits. That is, this is my first real-world brush with a religious heaven. The word is otherwise so storybook, ephemeral, tossed loosely into pop lyrics; but when it’s the destination of someone I hold dear to my heart, parting is all I know of this place. It helps to quiet the dissonance the teeniest bit.
Without thesis or reason, today I extend a piece of bread to the angel on my shoulder and all the others. I hope they’ve received Maritsa. I hope she’s at grace.