I was at work when the news came: Kitty had died. It wasn’t a surprise but it was still an emotional shock. I was reading a T.S. Eliot poem on-line, Little Gidding, searching for a quote I wanted, and when the words of her passing came to my ears the poem became a prayer.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
I have always struggled to understand Eliot but have not, until today, tried to understand him with critical commentaries and scholarly insights. But Friday, when I lost Kitty, the words themselves were enough, speaking of endings and beginnings and oneness. And I thought about revelation and scripture and wondered why the poetry was more consoling than the psalm or the gospel verse. And I wondered: isn’t God speaking in each and through each of these? Writing that struggles to give voice to the mystery of life and death, give name to the Mystery of life and death, give meaning, give hope. Isn’t that what scripture is, what poetry is?
But here, in this blog I put aside religious struggles and honor Kitty. Her professional commitment to education, her pursuit of personal and institutional excellence, her devotion to her Jewish faith and community, her love of literature and her desire to create. Her compassion, her heart, her wonderful hugs. And I give thanks for the gift that she was in my life.
(For the full reflection about Catholicism see my blog: Catholicism in the 21st Century.)