Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory. An Autobiography Revisited
Though I attended a Catholic school as a child (or perhaps, precisely because of this?) I admit I’m not religious at all. I used to consider myself as an agnostic, but what I witnessed on 29 September 2009 has now firmly established my membership of the atheistic club.
With regard to my daughter Clea’s death, one of the most insufferable comments anyone can make is the rather trite “You now have a little angel in heaven” or “She is now in heaven, the little angel”. I suspect people who say such things to me simply want to feel good themselves, and regrettably have no understanding of how their words make me feel.
The day after we returned from Samoa on a Polynesian Blue plane that carried the coffin with Clea inside, we had to go and meet the staff of the company that were to organise the funeral. The lady asked us if we wanted to read (or for someone to read) a poem. I asked what the poem was about and requested to see it or hear it before I agreed to it.
The good lady started reading and halfway through the poem I heard the words “for I am needed up above”. I immediately (yet politely) stopped her. I did not want to hear any more. My daughter could not be needed anywhere but with us, with her two brothers.
That night I sat down and wrote a brief poem myself. I read the poem at Clea’s funeral, and later it was placed inside the card we mailed to hundreds of people:
At the time I didn’t know I was beginning to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): poor sleep, nightmares, failure to concentrate, stress, inability to cope with multitasking, etc. I guess much of the poetry I have written has helped me go through the grieving period. But the poetry has also flourished under PTSD.
I guess I agree with Nabokov’s dictum: we are but a brief crack of light between two everlasting nights. Clea loved her crack of light, but it was all too brief, and ended violently. Surely no ‘angel’ deserved to go that way.