Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

Beauty in The Undertaking

July 7, 2008


Tonight I picked up a collection of rich essays recommended to me by my friends Jan and Matt. Only 50 pages in, I can already tell that the book is an amazing work of darkness and hope as it wanders between matters of death and life.

I came to this quote,

When we bury the old, we bury the known past, the past we imagine sometimes better than it was, but the past all the same, a portion of which we inhabited. Memory is the overwhelming theme, the eventual comfort.
But burying infants, we bury the future, unwieldy and unknown, full of promise and possibilities, outcomes punctuated by our rosy hopes. This grief has no borders, no limits, no known ends, and the little infant graves that edge the corners and fencerows of every cemetery are never quite big enough to contain that grief. Some sadnesses are permanent. Dead babies do not give us memories. They give us dreams.

and I put the book down and wept, hard–

for the kind and cutting truth in these words.
for the beauty therein.
for the way that being so understood can heal, and hurt.
and for the love of my son.

And then I catch my breath and put my glasses back on my nose. My catharsis has subsided again, and both my healing and my hurt have become more perfectly enmeshed into my being. It is my deep belief and my earnest hope that it will continue to be so, day after day.

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4 Responses to “Beauty in The Undertaking”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Horribly, and beautifully true. Where do these people come up with observances of complete truth? May God comfort, and truly bless the Stavlunds.
    Tom D.M.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Mike-
    I am reading this book right now too. I came across it by watching the PBS Frontline based on the author/book. That powerful quote was one featured on Frontline.
    Leigh Miller (Paul’s wife)

  3. was cheating and blog surfing when I should have been listening in a room full of people. I had to stop and breathe to keep myself from weeping

    I would not be brave enough to read that book. I don’t want catharsis, I want to hold my son.

    20 years later I still don’t know what to do about that except struggle in secret with bitterness towards the god who commanded Abraham to kill his own son.

    Except this

    When I read about you weeping, it somehow reads like a healing light which brushes against the places I keep dark

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