Grandpa's memorial service was this weekend. Grandma had his ashes scattered in the garden, in a private family-only ceremony --"ceremony" consisting of Grandma reciting "The Green Hills of Tyrol," a bagpiper playing a lament on the hill in the backyard while an uncle scattered the ashes around, and everyone going inside to drink an entire bottle of Grandpa's favorite whisky.
But it also dawned on me that my two brothers-in-law, as well as my cousin's husband and new baby, were meeting the entire extended family for the first time (not everyone could make it to their respective weddings), and that the stoicism and quirkiness that are normal in unspoken context -- along with the background stories to present realities-- probably appeared oddly devoid of meaning.
Today a third of the grandkids leave to go home to California, Michigan, and Nova Scotia. By October, another third will have moved to Boston, New York City, and Madrid. So I'm stealing this appropriate poem from my cousin's myspace profile.
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.