Monday, January 21, 2013

Paloma: A dove flying home

We light three candles on our makeshift altar, flames dancing across Jesus, La Virgen de Guadalupe and Papa's obituary, and slip beneath a blanket on our sofa.  Our bodies huddle side by side, holding the silence as a cup between us. 

Thinking of her.  Of her brief life, a flame flickering in the darkness, unwilling to be snuffed out. 

In Spanish, her name means "pigeon," but ivory flowers lay across our altar and I think instead of a dove.  I think of peace, and pray, that soon she'll be at rest.

I ask my husband for memories of his cousin.  One year younger than him, they grew up more as brother and sister, getting into all kinds of mischief, but those stories are not for tonight.  She lost her Mami when she was only five.  He chokes up when he speaks, recalling with admiration the cousin he remembers as having every reason to be sad and yet somehow, always smiling.  

The quiet enfolds us.  I think of her eight-year old son, of her husband, as I watch the candle flames and pray.

"She doesn't want to die," he whispers, shaking his head.  And though I've never met her, I feel her sorrow, her struggle to let go of this brief episode that is life, and I weep.

How hard it must be, to let go, how thirty-six years must feel like the blink of an eye, a sweep of the lashes dropping a tear to the dust.  How even as a body is overtaken with cancer, this disease cannot take the spirit, and still she fights.  She loves, to the final breath.

And then, soon, leans back into the arms of God.

I stand up, reach down to pull my husband to his feet, wrap my arms around his neck and lay my cheek against his skin.  That I can do all this, feel his warm body and pulse and inhalation of breath, is pure gift.  I hold him, quiet, drinking the moment like a sweet red wine, because I'm not sure why I have been given this and not her.  Because I'm not sure how long I will have this to hold.  But as long as I do, I must savor and inhale the scent of him and speak the words that I dare not hold back, for life is too brief and anything less than love is not enough.

And still the candles flicker, refusing to be swallowed by the dark, and somewhere in the light of glory, a dove prepares to fly home.


Linking up today with Tuesday's Just Write group over at Heather King's blog.


  1. Oh my friend, this is beautiful. Your tribute to Paloma who is so radiant, your breathing life into deepest sorrows. This line: "I dare not hold back, for life is too brief and anything less than love is not enough." I am grateful for this intimate moment with your husband that expresses his heart and your collective one, moving together in all of life and loss. Thank you, my friend. And I'm so sorry for you and your husband and all your family.

    1. Thank you, friend. It's amazing, how someone like Paloma, so radiant as you said, can have such an impact on me when I never met her. But her life taught me some precious things and, even in her death, she gave some gifts that are beyond value. I'm humbly in awe of that. So I hoped to capture that, just a little, in this piece.