an endless listening

I recently read an astonishing article called "In the Presence of Death" by Christopher Bamford about the process of caring for his wife as she died. I loved the article so much that I wanted to run out to Kinkos and make copies for friends far and near. I can't find a copy online, or I would link to it from here.

I wanted to start a book group (or would that be an article group?) just so I could talk it through, in the same way that Ser and I have chewed over every issue of Brain, Child (Ser, did you read "Holding Baby Birds" yet?), and Amber and Bethany and I have explored poetry and self-help books together.

But truth be told, I haven't even managed to shower for the last few days--we're all sick with colds--so the best I can do is share a few choice quotes. As always I'd LOVE to hear what you think and which quotes resonate with you. And if you are a silent lurker on this blog--you read it, but never comment, come forward--out yourself!

So without further ado, here's Christopher Bamford:

"I have come to understand that life is praise and lamentation, and that the two are very close, perhaps one--and that they are transformative. Despite the almost constant sadness, confusion, setbacks, self-pity, and other burdens of ordinary egotism, I feel the wound, the opening, and sometimes the joy, the certainty of knowing that meaning exists even if I am not yet able to cognize it fully."

"But the liturgy continued, life continued, on both planes. Her body, though it was only her her body, had served nobly in the service of her life and was a sacred, numinous thing, to be handled and regarded with awe and reverence. The children bathed, oiled and washed her with tenderness and love. The house was filled with people. There was an enormous sense of stasis, of in-betweenness, liminality. It was as if, like her, the space we occupied lay between worlds, not yet here, no longer completely there."

"All this meant that not only was heaven a human place but that life, her story, was endless; that all our stories are endless. And that to understand the meaning of an endless story--mine, hers or yours--would require a new way of being in the world. And a new way of listening, an endless listening. For we are not used to stories that have no end. We neither know how to live them nor how to tell them nor how to listen to them."


Lucy said...

All three of these quotes are so beautiful that I want to copy them and post them on my blog. Of course, that would be really silly, but still....

Christy said...

You don't know me, Jenny, but I found your blog through your articles on Boundless a couple months ago and have been reading it ever since. Thanks for sharing your life and thoughts so freely!
I love the first quote especially...i often think about the heights and depths of life, of how sometimes extreme sadness can almost turn into a sort of joy because it is such a deep emotion and evokes such a great response. What he says about praise and lamentation being so closely linked reminded me of that.

Jenny said...

Hey Christy,

Nice to meet you! I'm happy to hear from you and to know that you liked the quotes. I love the first quote, too, and that last one, and well, the middle one!

I know what you mean about praise and lamentation.

Ser said...

Thanks for these beautiful quotes, Jenny. We are not used to stories that have no ending. I love that.

I haven't read the article in Brain, Child because . . . I forgot to have it forwarded! I must call them today.

I miss you so.

melissa said...

The "sometimes joy" and "certainty of knowing that meaning exists even if I do not cognize it fully" strikes me as true. Not the same thing as finding an explanation or reason, but maybe finding rest in the not-knowing. Thanks for sharing these.

Bethany Torode said...

That last one is the most hopeful thing I have read in a long, long time.

Julia said...

Jenny, my computer is against me leaving comments. I've tried a few times, and it always dies before I click the publish button. I think it's trying to tell me something, maybe that I'm leaving too big of a footprint on the internet. But just so you know: I'm still here. These quotes are nice...reminds me of Schmemann's book on death which I cracked open recently.

Boysnberries' Brambles said...

I need to get a copy of your reading lists, Jenny!

~Bethany's friend, Bethany