Slivers of Time

There is no such thing as a permanent monument for a life; just as there is no such thing as a permanent life. Heavy slabs of marble outlast bodies of flesh and bone, but not by much. Stone cracks and crumbles and names fade away, as do the memories of the named themselves. Dates, words, what we were called by our fathers and mothers, all cease to signify the life. The symbols, the amalgam of letters and numbers, that constellation of values, small curves and vertical lines, become merely artifacts, for awhile, before all flattens, and fades until there is no longer any discernible proof of human, or a human witness.

At one point, in a sliver of time, there was this data, tied to a story, that made up a child. It was attached to her living body with threads that only existed in the minds of those who believed in her and bore witness to her presence. The threads were woven to create the story of her existence. We are  always weaving as long as we are alive. When the body stops living our stories might continue to be woven if there are any still living whose own story it serves to preserve us. But the value of such stories only decreases over time. Stories of the once living can be recorded and contained, but only upon mediums that are also subject to decay.

All stories decay and become dust. All are  forgotten. We are as permanent and fragile as ice. The little girl buried here beneath this desecrated grave has lost her name as the result of someone still living who didn’t even know their own, or at least didn’t understand its significance. John and Martha lost their daughter while she was still very young, at a time when losing the young was much more common, but not less tragic. To lose a child, whose eyes were once yours, whose little fingers held your own with such force, whose short and happy story was so tightly woven into your own, is a wound from which you do not fully recover.

They tended her grave once. They set upon it bright flowers and kept it free of weeds, for awhile. Because they couldn’t bear for her story to end. But all stories end.

I lost a child I never knew. It was a son, or a daughter.  I’ll never know. I feel it was a boy. I never gave him a chance to live. Until now I have forgotten him. It takes one death to know another. Now I have killed at least three precious gifts. A child, a great love and a beautiful animal I stole from the sea. Arrogance, pride, selfishness, fear. There are no graves, there are no markers. But I carry the scars. To my unborn son I beg forgiveness. Watch over me and teach me what I must know to know you. Father Tom was right, it is to you I must make amends now, in this time of reckoning.

o O o

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7 thoughts on “Slivers of Time

  1. “All stories decay and become dust. All are forgotten. We are as permanent and fragile as ice.” Beautifully written as always, and expressing a fact of human existence that is hard to acknowledge but remains inescapably true.

  2. My friends and relatives don’t understand the allure that old cemeteries hold for me. I have a headstone folder in my pictures gallery. Strange, huh?

    Who was that child? What did my great-great grandmother feel when she threw the earth on the tiny grave? When I walk through my ancestral cemetery in South Georgia and imagine their lives, I feel like I am doing something that I would want someone to do for me when I become dust. If I had your skill with words maybe I would try to explain to my friends.

    I hope you keep writing. Sometimes your words really move me. Thanks.

    • Maybe it’s because there is no dead. Maybe we can feel that. When a headstone is untended, forgotten, I feel a pathos. Once we have been forgotten, thoroughly forgotten, and there is no trace of us left in any living memory, what proof is there of our existence? Thanks Daniel. We all want to be remembered, but more importantly, recognized while we’re still here.

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