Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thinking of Death: John Lennon and Elizabeth Edwards

'Fading December Zinnia' by Marion

Where were you when John Lennon died on this date in 1980? 

Warning:  I'm Southern and I just can't tell a simple, straightforward story, so bear with me if I drift off course and take the long way around, okay?

We lived in a house on Lake Bistineau across the street from Mama that year.  (I say 'that year' because we moved over 30 times before we settled down here and bought a house around 1990.)  The house was practically in the lake---water on two sides.  I loved it because I'm a crab, a water sign.  I often fished from the back porch or right behind the house in a little flat-bottom boat we borrowed from neighbors.  I remember catching over 30 White Perch (Crappie or sac-au-lait, as they call them in south Louisiana) one day with my long cane pole from that rickety little wooden porch.  I used worms I'd dug up in the front yard for bait.  The fish kept coming so fast I had to divide those worms into thirds to keep my hook baited.  I have to say that's the most fun I've ever had fishing.  I cleaned the fish with an old spoon and we ate White Perch for a week, happy to have it because it's the best tasting fish on earth next to Bass, of course, and I know my fish, having been raised by a professional fisherman. 

I spent as much time on the Red River as I did in school as a kid, both on the banks and in a boat with my Uncle Warner checking his nets or running his trot lines or on a sandbar playing.  I was the baby of the family and he would only let me go fishing with him and not the older kids.  I was his favorite.  He called me skinny minnie and my nieces and nephews still call me Aunt Minnie.  I can't tell you how awesome it was to read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (which I did about ten times starting when I was six years old...the only of Daddy's hundreds of books I'd managed to keep was a complete set of Mark Twain), then to run over the levee across the road and head for the River with a pack of kids to play and swing on the thick vines that hung from the trees in a spot we called Monkey Jungle.  I became Tom Sawyer.  Screw that prissy Becky Thatcher.  I wanted to be either Tom or Huck every time we played by the River.  Even though my relatives were drunks, they were pretty responsible drunks.  As anyone who's been around drinkers knows, there's mean drunks and there's nice, responsible drunks (not an oxymoron, trust me).  Thankfully, my aunt and uncle were the latter.  My stepfather was the former, but that's a whole 'nother story.

In 1980, I kept a hoe by the front door (inside) to kill water moccasins.  I killed 6 the year we lived there and hung their corpses over a nearby barbed wire fence just like Aunt Mace taught me.  My husband thought I was a crazy woman, wielding that hoe like an Amazon warrior.  I'd often open the front door and HELLO!  there would be a snake coiled on my little concrete stoop.  (Aunt Mace taught us as young children to keep a hoe handy to kill the chicken snakes that often worried the chickens.  Our chore was to gather eggs from the chicken house.  We gathered eggs fearlessly, hoe in hand as wise country children...no big deal.) 

My daughters were 6 and 1 in 1980, so I didn't have mercy for reptiles like I do now.  (Now, I let them live, but I still keep a nice, sharp hoe in my shed....habit).  That fateful day John Lennon died, I was in bed recovering from amoebic dysentery (the whole family got it and we never discovered where it came from...the doctor asked us which foreign country we'd been traveling in....I told him the only foreign country I'd ever visited was the one in my head) and listening to the radio when the DJ interrupted the music and said, "John Lennon is dead."  I was 26 years old and knew, for some reason, that my childhood was now irretrievably lost, (don't we all---those of us with crazy childhoods---somehow wish, deep inside, for a do-over?) and that this moment would forever divide time:  before John died and after.  One of the Beatles was dead.  I cried like a baby.  If you were a child or teen in the 1960's, the Beatles were a part of the soundtrack of your life.  My oldest sister and all of her friends had all their records and I still know the words to all their hits.  Yes, suddenly, I felt old.  And here I sit 30 years later.  My, how time flies.

My prayers go out to the family of the fierce and lovely Elizabeth Edwards who lost her brave battle with breast cancer yesterday.  What a strong, beautiful woman she was!  She reminded me of our Renee, who I think of almost every day.  I'm so sorry that she didn't get to see her small children grown.  Every mothers' prayer from those first birth contractions is, "Dear God, please just let me see my children grown."  I'm really sorry she lost her valiant fight so soon.  I know she's with her beloved Wade, her son who died at age 16.  She lived her life courageously in spite of the most horrifying tragedies:  death, cancer, betrayal....  Yes, she was a true, classy Southern Lady who we should all emulate.

Live your life every moment of every day.  I leave you with a poem.  Blessings,  ~Marion

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A Prayer That Will Be Answered
by Anna Kamienska

Lord let me suffer much
and then die

Let me walk through silence
and leave nothing behind not even fear

Make the world continue
let the ocean kiss the sand just as before

Let the grass stay green
so that the frogs can hide in it

so that someone can bury his face in it
and sob out his love

Make the day rise brightly
as if there were no more pain

And let my poem stand clear as a windowpane
bumped by a bumblebee's head

From:  "A Book of Luminous Things" an anthology of international poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz, translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanaugh

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"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." ~Mark Twain

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"People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad." ~Marcel Proust

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Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me.
The Carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality...  ~Emily Dickinson

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10 comments:

Wine and Words said...

My memory sucks. I can't remember where I was. I can remember where I was during 9-11 but that's about it. I really love that line in the poem about being clear...bumped by a bumblebee's head. I get so tickled when someone says something in a way that I wouldn't have though of. It's like a gift. You bring me so many gifts Marion!

glnroz said...

I read your posts often, but comment, not-so-often. This was a wonderful story and I do like the southern style. where are we each moment? sometimes we have to have "markers" i suppose.

Kelly said...

I was in my apartment in Knoxville, TN. They broke into the TV program I was watching. I remember it well.

I loved your story...both about the fishing AND the snakes. You know I'm not much of a fish eater, but the rare times I do I eat catfish. I need to try some bass again and see what I think (or crappie...but I don't seem to catch those very often since I prefer plactic worms for bait).

I can wield a hoe, too! I'm not quick to kill a non-poisonous snake, but the only good water moccasin is a dead one!

I was sorry to hear about Elizabeth Edwards, too. Sad, sad.

Lilith said...

What a beautiful poem.

Carol said...

I loved every word you had to say. Thanks for these thoughts.

Carol-the gardener

Phoenix said...

Such a gorgeous poem... "Make the day rise brightly/as if there were no more pain"

Beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes.

I was too young to remember John Lennon's death, so I mourn my lack of mourning. As long as I have known John Lennon, he has always been dead. That in itself is a kind of tragedy, don't you think?

And Elizabeth Edwards - what a brave, strong woman. I hope she is in less pain now. My thoughts go out to the rest of her family.

Thanks, as always, for sharing, Marion. You brighten up my day.

Rick said...

Marion
I remember elvis in '77
and even jfk in 64 or 5
but i dont remember lennon
heard on the radio yesterday a clip from monday night football cuz thats when it happened.
howard cossell announced it like a play or a joe frazier punch
shot twice
dead on arrival.
geez that was weird.
loved your story and the snakes
love
~rick

Marion said...

I thank each of you for your kind comments. I appreciate all of you very much. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Love & Blessings to you!! xoxo

GYPSYWOMAN said...

what an incredible story yours is, dear marion! would love love to hear more of your own experiences! powerful and captivating!!! brava!!!

and oh, how time does fly and our memories become our haunting home of today! wonderful post, lady marion!!!

Marion said...

It was meant that I was to read this post today. Somehow I missed it earlier when it was posted. And I needed to read Emily Dickinson's poem again. Words on paper have stronger impact on me than words in my head.

I loved reading about your early days. Time flies by so quickly...here I am facing a milestone birthday (60) and I have no idea how I got here! heh!

Loved this post and I'm so sorry I'm late commenting. Have a happy and prosperous New Year, dear Marion!