This year has nearly toppled me over with the deaths of certain people who many will view as elderly. I hear it everyday practically.
“They lived a good long life.”
I take a different view on it all because I don’t forget the contributions that many of these people have made to the world in general. My mother is included in that number and she is not the least of them. There were several others which also affected me quite a bit. The passing of a very dear pastor of my home church, ORCC, was Wallace Hickey who passed away on the day I gave the eulogy for my mother’s memorial. I attended his memorial at my church on Veteran’s Day, November 11th and it was a wonderful celebration of his life. He was a wonderful human being who was always cheerful no matter the weather and I believe he had healing in his hands. I’m certain, actually- it takes one to know one. Heaven’s gain was the world’s loss in 2012.
The passing of Ray Bradbury, who the entire world knows as one of the greatest Science Fiction writers that has ever lived was another blow. He was also a poet- unbeknownst to the rest of the world. I read a poem he wrote in a women’s magazine years ago. It was titled, That Stranger on the Lawn :
Sometimes, gone late at night,
I would awake and hear
My mother in another year and place
Out walking on the lawn so late
it must have been near dawn yet dark it was
The only light then in the gesture of the stars
Which wheeled around in motionings so soft
They took your breath to see; and there upon the grass
Like ghost with dew-washed feet she was
A maid again, alone, quite singular, so young.
I wept to see her there so strange.
So unrelate to me, so special to herself,
So untouched by the world, so evanescent, free,
With something wild come up in cheeks
And red to lips, and flashing in the eyes,
It frightened me.
Why should she wander out without permit,
Permission saying go or do not go
From us or any other…?
Was she or, my God, wasn’t she our mother?
How dare she walk, a virgin, fresh once more
Within a night that hid her face,
How dare displace us in her thoughts and will?!
And sometimes even still, late nights,
I think I hear her soft tread on the sill,
And wake to see her cross the lawn
Gone wild with wishing, dreaming, wanting
And crouched down there until dawn,
Washing her hair with wind,
Paying no mind to the cold,
Waiting for some bold strange man
To rise up like the sun
And strike her beauteous-blind!
And weeping I call out to her;
Oh, young girl there,
Oh, sweet girl in the dawn!
I do not mind no, no.
I do not mind.
I remember pointing out the poem to Mom and she loved it. She loved it enough to save it among the other letters, poems, notes and small reminders which she kept in all her bibles. She said it reminded her of an experience about her own mother. As I laid it down here and read it over again, astoundingly, it makes me think about memories and characteristics of my Mom from years ago. She kept up a youthful attitude almost clear up to the end of her life.
The last book I bought of Ray Bradbury was a huge collection of 100 stories which had appeared in various periodicals throughout his career. I highly recommend either checking it out from the library or buying it on Amazon. In reading some of the stories, most of which I’d never read or heard about, I found a story that I’d had a conversation about with a fellow bookstore customer years ago. I’d mentioned the poem to this man and he exclaimed that, in fact, he had read the story. This puzzled me no end and I insisted that it was only a poem. I thought this man either had faulty memory or was being contrary when he insisted that he had read a story by Ray Bradbury, titled The Stranger On the Lawn, with a story line very much like what I’d described about the poem.
Well, this book contained one surprise for me which I never thought I’d see. There is a story, written in a spirit as of fiction titled That Woman on the Lawn, which is a fleshed out and fully engaging story about a man seeing his mother, many years after her passing, as a ghost in her girlhood. It is written cleverly, as I can tell you anything written by Ray Bradbury most certainly is always but one is left very uncertain about time as a finite dimension in reading this one. It stands out in this collection for this reason but does not eclipse a single other story in the book. Beg, borrow or steal a copy and indulge yourself in a rare literary treat.
Another experience twines around this one, again, involving my mother. I wrote a poem about my mother many years ago before I’d ever read the poem or the story which was published in my first collection of poems under the title Seasons of the Heart. This is the poem, which I titled Stranger :
My mother’s eyes just closed.
I wanted to ask her
what the pain was like
and if I could make it stop.
Suddenly, a still, silent stranger
lies in her place;
She would never lie there and not fight.
Her mouth would not be somber.
She would smile and say,
“It hasn’t beat me yet.”
Her arms would not lie by her sides like that.
She would embrace me and say,
“I love you more than anything in the world.”
My mouth is quivering. I am so cold;
She cannot answer my question,
because the pain has stopped.
by Evelyn M. Wallace
from the book Seasons of the Heart
Published by Saxifrage Books
signed, first editions available in limited quantities
Happy Birthday to George Beverly Shea who turns 104 today!