Death, Grief, and #Outlander

Books.  Are.  Refuge.  I believe this.  I believe they offer hope when it is hard to come by, that they offer respite when the world is “too much with us,” and they offer knowledge to combat the ignorance of prejudice.

So I was not surprised when, after my mom died on Christmas Eve, I eventually turned to my books.  I was surprised, however, that it took me so long to reach out to the solace of their well-worn pages.  There was an answer for that, of course, a reason for my hesitancy to slip into the relief offered by a good story; it just took me a while to work it out…

{SPOILERS AHEAD:  If you haven’t finished the Outlander series to date, you might want to book mark this page for later.  Otherwise, read further at your own expense.  You have been warned.}

Grief is a very personal thing.  It varies so much from person to person, and even from loss to loss.  There is no “right” way to grieve.  (Although, of course, there are some very unhealthy ways to do so.)

In the first book, we get a glimpse at Claire’s grief at losing Frank.  Despite the protests of some Frank Haters, Claire most certainly does grieve the loss of Frank.  She weeps for him at Castle Leoch after tending to Jamie’s injuries.  And, trust me, if a woman can sit on a certain ginger’s lap and sadness that, my friends, is some serious grief.  Some readers minimize the depth of this grief, since Claire doesn’t curl up onto the fetal position or rock back and forth.  Our heroine, however, if made of stronger stuff.  Her turns her grief to action, to purpose, to finding a way back to Frank.  Sometimes, grief spurs us on.

There is more grief, of course, grief over the Wentworth and what it does to Jamie.  Because sometimes, the grief that hurts is the most is the unrelenting pain of someone we know…a pain which we cannot ease for them.  The pain of loved ones can rub and gnaw until it creates a wound on our own soul–as if, by adding our own pain, we can lessen their burden.  Helpless in the face of Jamie’s pain and shame and guilt, Claire finally shares her own pain in the quiet of the abbey.  And, in that sharing, she finds hope.

Sometimes grief more resembles anger, like when Jenny lashes out at Claire for not raising a finger to save her beloved Ian from death.  Why him?  Why now?  Why like this?

Death, like any visitor, can be fickle.  Sometimes you know; you plan for him, wait for him, and are ready to receive him.  Other times, he catches you unaware.

Ian Murphy saw Death coming for a great distance.  There was time to make sure that there was nothing left unsaid.  Time to prepare.  To set things to right.  A blessing to be sure, but also a burden in its own way.  Everyone gathers.  Everyone waits.  Life stands still in the long moments between breaths.  Until finally, the breaths cease and, slowly, life starts back up again.

Other deaths seem to strike like a crime of opportunity.  One moment’s hesitation, a moment too long at a stop light, a skipped mammogram, an unknown allergy…  Unfortunately, life—much like a good book—has periods of unrest…dark times to make the reader appreciate the light…tragedy to make the happy ending that much sweeter.

And that, of course, it why I didn’t immediately return to the Outlander books.  I cared too much about the characters to risk losing anyone else.  Dealing with the loss of Mrs. Bug and also Young Ian’s guilt, seemed too much to take on.  Watching Claire drink herself into a stupor instead of contemplating a life without Jamie felt too raw; to witness, again, Claire’s feeling of maladroitness in the face of Ian’s illness, felt too eerily relatable.  I wanted something else.  I wanted escape.  I wanted love without the pain.  Light without the dark.  Good without the bad.

So, for a while, tended to things.  Arrangements, loose ends, the sorting through of things.  Busy work.  Work to distract the mind.

But that is not balance; it cannot be maintained.

So, now, finally, I venture forth.  I write a little something.  I read a bit.  I try to put one foot in front of the other.  Something akin to walking.  Something like moving forward.

At some point, though, I hope for more.  I hope for something better that just forward movement.  At some point, I want a measure of peace.  The peace that comes with acceptance.  Something past the blinding pain of loss, something past the anger, something past the empty void.  At some point, I want to have the grace and wisdom to, instead, whisper:  That she may be safe, Lord.  

Maybe someday, for the moment, that will be enough.   Until, we just hold on as best we can…

mom-and-dad
Mom and Dad (Thanksgiving, 2016): our last holiday together
Advertisements

Auld Lang Syne

My mother was a faithful woman.  And in the early hours of Christmas Eve morn, she went to be with her Lord and Savior.

Yesterday was the Celebration of Life for her, and tomorrow starts a new year.  My first year without her.

My very talented sister in law put together a beautiful photo retrospective.  She included one of my favorite photos of my mom.  Still glowing with youth and full of life, it perfectly captures her joy and fiestiness and her grace…

image
Charlene Zeller (1935-2016)

 

In honor of her, I will recount the words I said at her service–mostly so those who never got a chance to know her might at least know of her.

Those gathered here today undoubtedly knew of my mother’s grace and generosity. One of the ways her love manifested itself was through giving. It was undoubtedly her Love Language, and she was fluent in it. She loved to go shopping—she considered it a quest of sorts—a quest to find the Perfect Pairing of Gift and Value. (She came from Scottish ancestry, and their renowned thriftiness was a trait she bore with pride.)

In her quest to find Just the Right Gift, my mother hunted all year. The only problem was that, once she found that Perfect Gift, she simply couldn’t bear to wait to see the expression of joy and surprise. Many times she would call me at work and tell me that I needed to stop by on my way home so she could present me with one of her finds.

Even once she started chemo, she often sweet talked my father to run her by some store or other on the way to treatment, or afterwards, so that she could pick up something special for someone. I still have the text on my phone from this past Spring when she had located something special…you see, Mom had passed on to me her love of plants, and she had found a certain plant which she knew I wanted for my garden. She was eager to surprise me with it and couldn’t wait to tell me about it. Her text said: Hint: Witch Hazel, come by and get it tonight, OK?

When I picked up the plant that evening, I was shocked to find that it barely fit in my SUV. As always, when Mom did things, she did them big.

A lot of the flowers and herbs that grace my garden were gifts from my Mom. They are a living reminder of her and, soon, when Winter gives way to Spring, I can walk among the plants and feel her near.

Once of the reasons she loved plants so much was, along with their beauty, they had purpose…they had meaning.

One of the last plants she gave me was that Witch Hazel….in ancient times, it was believed that Witch Hazel could ward off evil…and soothe a broken heart.

It seems that, even as the end drew near, Mama was searching for one last perfect gift.

Thank you, Mama.

image

Go mbeannai Dia dhuit.

 

 

Books, Grief, and #Outlander

Sometimes you just know things. A thought, unbidden, rises with certainty. Not something hoped for. Not something expected. But something Known.

When I heard my mom had a mass in her lung, I knew it was cancer. And before the radiation and chemo and pet scans, I knew–just as sure as autumn’s days grow shorter–that when the season’s chill gave way to cold, she would also give way to something, to whatever comes After.

This brave, wise, and faithful woman taught me to live. Now, as these numbered days march on, she teaches me the Final Lesson. How to die.  The one thing that she cannot teach me is how to go on without her.  This lesson I must figure out on my own, and a lonely, stumbling journey it is.

Raised with books as I was, I look there for solace: I try to find escape; I try to find guidance.  Something to hold onto when I can no longer hold her.

image

A pile of books waits for me next to my bed.  The spines cracked with use.  Pages dog-earred.  C. S. Lewis shared his own journey in A Grief Observed, and I cling to it like a map out of the abyss.  I spare a thought for the repose of his own soul, and in the next ragged breath I say a word of thanks for Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander series.  Mere words on paper, to be sure, but words that have helped me untangle thoughts, find hope and faith, soothe both anger and fear… Now I turn to those beloved books in the blind panic of a grief much dreaded.

Considering the span of years (and the time period) which Gabaldon’s books cover, it is only natural that death and loss occurs.  Claire’s parents.  Jamie’s parents.  Murtaugh. Ian Murray. Frank. Mrs. Bug. Faith. Even merely presumed deaths cast a long shadow across the page.

We see death through the eyes of so many characters.  And, in them, we see ourselves  Every stage of grief is represented:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, then finally…acceptance.

Last night I reread the pages of Ian Murray’s death.  I grabbed the book off the pile and took it with me to my son’s football practice.  The heat of the day had dissolved into a crisp breeze, and the Oklahoma sun was blazing pink and yellow behind the black of the shadowed tree line.  Under dusk’s shadows, I flipped through the pages until I found it.

The death was neither easy nor poetic, but his soul’s final passage was a gentle slipping away.

He didn’t speak again but seemed to settle, his body diminishing as life and breath fled from it.  When his last breath came, they waited in dull misery, expecting another, and only after a full minute of silence did they begin to look at one another covertly, stealing glances at the ravaged bed, the stillness in Ian’s face–and realized slowly that it was over at last.

Despite the fact that we know it is coming, we never quite expect it; we wait for a breath that never comes, and glance at one another for confirmation.  Is this it?  Is this all?  We always want there to be more.

They move on.  Then we move on.  We proceed with preparations.  Busy ourselves with What Must Be Done.  But realization finds us in the quiet moments.  It always does.

When Jamie and Jenny find a quiet moment together, Jenny asks her brother the thought that has lingered in her mind despite her distractions:

“Where d’ye think he is now?” Jenny asked suddenly.  “Ian, I mean.”

He glanced at the house, then at the new grave waiting, but of course that wasn’t Ian anymore.  He was panicked for a moment, his earlier emptiness returning–but then it came to him, and, without surprise, he knew what it was Ian had said to him.

“On your right side, man.”  On his right.  Guarding his weak side.

“He’s just here,” he said to Jenny, nodding to the spot between them.  Where he belongs.”

This is what I am holding on to…that long after I stop waiting for the breath that never comes, I will always find her, just there, guarding my weak side.

Casting Claire (or How To Stop #Outlander Casting Bashing)

 

Claire_Fraser_(Outlander_TV)
Wait…are her eyes brown in this picture?

Her hair is brown, curly, and rather unruly.  Her eyes are the color of whisky; they are hawkish and observant[i].  At 5”6, her nose fits neatly in the hollow of Jamie’s chest.  Despite her generous bum and her full bosom, she is trim.[ii]  In the first book, Claire responds to Jamie’s blurted inquiry of “How much do you weigh, Sassanach,” with the unguarded answer of “Nine stone.”[iii]  These are the physical attribute of Claire—this is what she sees when she looks in the mirror.  Although, to be fair, considering the fictional life she lives, she doesn’t always have one to hand.  But that’s perfectly fine, because more often than not, Claire does give a rat’s ass if she looks “proper” or not.

Besides her lack of preoccupation with appearance, one of the things I love best about Claire is that her appearance is not static.  It changes.  She changes.  During times of trial and hardship, she loses weight; her stomach becomes nearly concave.  One cold winter, when activity is understandably limited due to the weather, Claire describes herself as “squidgy.”[iv]  Her hair starts to turn, some strands fade to white while others take on a silvery sheen.  Her ankle is marked by a broken vein.  Faint stretch marks are a testament to her feminine form.

And yet, based on (or in spite of) the words on the page, readers undoubtedly find themselves in Claire:

She is tall like me (…or short like me…)

She is curvy, like me (…or thin, like me…or has a round rear-end, like me…)

This seeing ourselves in the characters may be one of the reason that readers be so emotionally invested in the appearance of their beloved book characters when they do finally make an appearance on the screen.

Unfortunately, whenever a character is cast, it seems that the Appearance Police make their own appearance…

Hmmph, Brianna’s hair is so not that shade of red.  Cant’s they just use the dye they use for Jamie?

Claire’s eyes should be whisky colored.  Seriously, how hard would it be to wear contacts?

Brianna should be taller.  Geez, can’t she just, like, wear some platform shoes?

Roger’s hair should be blacker.  *produces bottle of hair dye and waves it threateningly*

Claire is too thin (…or too curvy).

Jamie’s hair is too short (…or long….or red…or curly…or fuzzy…)  Because, you know, they totally had some great hair products back in the 1700s… Bear grease, anyone?

Admittedly, it seems like the screams of outrage are louder for the casting of the female characters.  Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall having heard too much drama over the casting of Dougal (Disclaimer: I love Graham.  Seriously.  Not hating on Graham.  But, if you want to get picky, he really doesn’t look like Book Dougal.  And yet…no drama.  But geez, let poor Catriona rock her own eye color rather than some boozy hue and OMG! The Skye[v] is Freakin’ Falling!).

It seems that of All The Things I Stage Whisper To My Husband While Watching Outlander, none of these things are about physical attributes.  Mostly, because I tend to read characters and develop a “sense” of them rather than a mental image.  So I’m kind amazed when I see how absolutely rabid some[vi] of the Mental Imagers have with regard to the casting.

I just don’t get it.

But as I read all of the Twitter (and Facebook) outrage over the latest round of castings, it made me want to understand.  The best I can come up with is this:  maybe those qualities that the Casting Blasters believe they share with the main character weren’t retained, and it makes them sad to miss that perceived connection.

Maybe not.

I dunno.

But I do know that Jamie loved Claire when she was bony and when she was squidgy.  He loved her when she was his brown haired lass, when glints of white shone in her curls, and even when her head was shaved.  He loved her pre-stretch marks, and he loved her even more when the marks—these tangible evidence of the life they created– wove their silvery web across her stomach.  He loved her unconditionally.  Because Jamie loved the essence of Claire…not her appearance.

While lovely, Claire was so much more that that.  Jamie knew it.  Hell, even Lord John knew it:

“When he began to speak of you, both of us thought you were dead,” he pointed out.  “And while you are undoubtedly a handsome woman, it was never of your looks that he spoke.”

To my surprise, he picked up my hand and held it lightly.

“You have his courage,” he said.

 *Clears throat.*

*Wipes tear.*

*Drains whisky glass.*

So, I am thinking that maybe it would help if instead of Casting Bashing, we channel our inner-Jamie and wait and see how an actor/actress actually acts before we judge him/her.  We need to give them time to “show us what they got,” so to speak.

This approach works really well with fictional characters…come to think of it, it works pretty well for Real Life People, too.

 

 

[i] “She turned to Roger, her gaze an unsettling amber.  Her eyes always reminded him of hawk’s eyes, as though she could see a good deal father than most people.”  Voyager.
[ii] And this is where I would tuck in the quote about her flat belly that I recall from Voyager, when she is appraising her appearance and wondering how she will look to Jamie, after all these years… or at least this is where I would put the quote if I had book to hand and could find it at the moment
[iii] Or 126 pounds.  I rather like that she “owns” each pound; her answer is neither coy nor self-conscious.
[iv] To which Jamie responds something like, “I like ye fat.”  A response that made me crush on him pretty hard, and which every male would be well advised to learn and use when needed.
[v] See what I did there?
[vi] Please notice that I said “some,” not “all.”  If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t assume I am trying to shove your foot into it.

Fandom Shaming Needs to GO #RespectTheFandoms

I have no idea what a Magmar is, other than the word kinda looks like Ragnar. Which makes me think of Ragnar Lothbrok…which makes me wonder when the new season of Viking starts. I don’t know because it isn’t my fandom. And I’m okay with that. Some people, however…aren’t.

My kids like Pokemon Go. They like walking around the neighborhood catching them. They volunteer to run errands with me, and they bring their phones, and they ask me to turn right when I could just as well go straight, but I do it because it costs me nothing and yet it makes them happy, and it gives us a few more minutes together, and later I overhear them telling their friends that they caught a Nidorina…which means nothing to me. Except it makes them happy, and the word kinda looks like Narnia, which makes me wonder the last time I read C. S. Lewis, and I make a note to dig out the books.

I understand the lure of books, and games, and television shows. I know firsthand how a book can open your eyes to new possibilities, or breathe life into interests that had been left for dead. The Outlander books reminded me of my interest in herbs, and nudged me into gardening more seriously, and urged me to track down my ancestry. The books reminded me of the importance of strength and endurance and made me want to take better care of this body I inhabit. The books whispered to me and echoed the beauty of the words of my ancestors spoke, and the words they spoke were Gaelic, and I wanted to understand. So now I have dozen books on the subject on my shelves, and I can say a few halting phrases, and it makes me stupidly proud…

My daughter went to a Con this weekend. It was her second. She planned her outfits months in advance. She spent hours on her makeup. She styled her wig. On the first day of the convention she walked around for eight hours. She found her place among other made-up faces and she took photos to share. In the photos, she smiled; in the photos, she was no longer the awkward 14 year old who was self-conscious of her smile or her adolescent skin—she was brave, and she was alive, and she was…happy.

There is strength in numbers. There is joy in recognizing yourself in those numbers.

Personally, I don’t care if Pokemon Go gets people to—however unwittingly—exercise. I do not care if you are a forty-three year old who wants to Catch Them All. I do not care if you spend your down time scavenging for super rare creatures whose names escape me. I don’t care—not because I am Above It All—but because it makes you happy. And that is enough.

For those who think that time is better spent studying or reading or creating or doing…ANYTHING other than Wasting Time…perhaps a reminder is in order: It is their time to waste, and perhaps your time would be better spent doing something—anything—other than sucking the joy out of another person’s life like a Dementor. (Yes. I went there. Deal with it.)

Because in a world where we actually have to remind ourself that lives—any lives—matter, and where those sworn to Serve and Protect are being assassinated by those eager to have their names written in the annals of time, if we can find something that brings us joy, something that brings us a bit of peace at the end of the day, something that makes the news for bringing people together rather than tearing them apart…then I am all for it.

I will happily drive my kids over another block, or another, or another.

Collect that Magmar, Exeggutor, or Nidorina if it makes you happy. Read Outlander if it gives your peace. Watch Supernatural, or Sherlock, or Game of Thrones if it gives you something to look forward to…no, in fact, watch them all. You don’t have to choose.

Because tearing down someone else does not raise you up…and tearing down another person’s fandom does nothing to strengthen your own.

#Outlander, the Icky Bits, and Nutella

I haven’t weighed in on Season 2 of Outlander yet.  Maybe I was letting it sink in, perhaps I needed to process it a bit…to decide just what I felt about it.

Other fans shared their thoughts and opinions.  I heard talk about how Episode 1 Jamie seemed remote, hard to relate to, almost wooden.   They bemoan the change and how Season 2 Jamie isn’t “their” Jamie–how he’s not the same as Season 1 Jamie.

And, of course, they are right.

They mention the rape, talk about his PTSD, and how he is traumatized.  Yes, yes.  Of course he is.  But a lot of these comments are followed up with the something like, “I’ll be glad when the old Jamie is back.” 

What they likely mean, of course, is that they will be glad when camera focuses less on Jamie’s pain and trauma and gets back to the good times.  They want less screen time that focuses less on his nightmares and more on his smile, his wit, and his cute tush.

And I get it.

I do.

Or maybe they simply mean that they want his suffering to end.  That’s not bad, right?  I mean, they really like Jamie.  Who wants to see someone they like in pain?

But, really, if one of our BFFs suffered a trauma, would we try force “normalcy” on her so quickly?  Or would we give her time to cry, to grieve, to bury her pain in a pint of Ben & Jerrys (or a pint of Guinness, I won’t judge), and to curse the son of a bitch that hurt her…all while we planned his very painful and humiliating demise?

Sometimes you need to hang out in your sweat pants and watch bad Lifetime movies while eating Nutella straight from the jar.  Sometimes that chocolate-hazelnut goodness is all that gets you through the day.

These episodes…they are Jamie’s Nutella Days.  The guy has earned it.  Don’t try to take the jar away just yet.

Yes, broken Jamie is painful to watch.  Broken Jamie doesn’t want to think about Sexy Time.  Broken Jamie is short tempered and doesn’t whisper sweet nothings in Gaelic.

Geez.  Next thing you know, Broken Jamie will start talking about bills, and carpool, and he’ll leave the toilet seat up…

But the thing is, people are like that.  Life is like that.  Love is like that.

There are things you simply can’t rush.  You can’t rush healing.  You can’t rush forgiveness (of yourself or of others).  You can’t rush growth, or understanding, or love.

One of the things I love so much about the books is how Diana Gabaldon doesn’t rush things.  She doesn’t write Jamie’s rape and then pretend it never happened.  We are reminded of it– Jamie is reminded of it—over and over and over again.

Diana Gabaldon did not merely craft a character and a scene.  She crafted scars for him to bear, specters to haunt him, guilt to chain him, and faith to heal him. Her books gave Jamie—and the readers—time to work through what happened and its implications.  She breathed life into fantasy.

Jamie’s rape casts a long shadow, and it reaches through the books and colors events for many years to come.  I appreciate that what he endured was not a simple plot device that, once used, is swept under the rug.  The thread of Jamie’s sacrifice is woven through all of the books…through each page (oh, so many pages) of all of the books (those wonderfully long books!).

Have I mentioned that I love long books?  (Thank you, Diana!)

I do.

Because you can’t rush a good story.

Stories are more than just the good parts.  Life is more than just the good parts.  Love is more than just the good parts.

So I will watch patiently.  I will bear witness to the painful bits, the heartbeats of sorrow, and the moments of aching longing, because these times are the building blocks for what is to come.

Things get better.  They do.  Wounds heal.  Disappointments fade.

Both on screen and on the page…and in life.

Until then, pass the Nutella.

#Outlander and All The Feelings Ever

There is a reason I rarely wear eye make-up.  Well, besides the fact that I am lazy and hate having to take the blasted stuff off, plus it makes my lashes feel inordinately heavy, which makes me think that it must be time to go to sleep).  Mostly, I avoid mascara because, inevitably, it will end up in wet, black tracks down my face.  Call it the burden of being an empath.

For as long as I can recall it seems that other peoples troubles weigh on me as heavily as my own.  If a friend gets dumped, I grab a pint (of ice cream or beer, I don’t judge) right along with her.  When she starts looking for a house, I giddily sign up for house alerts on Zillow.  Those closest to me know to never send weepy memes to me without a *Kleenex Warning.*

Yesterday, I made the mistake of reading a mother’s letter to J. K. Rowling.  Of course I ugly-cried at my desk and hoped all that walked by might think it nothing more than a bit of spring fever.  Even now, when I called my bleary eyed daughter down from bed to read it to her before I left for work, I choked on the words and she had to make an emergency kleenex run before I flooded my keyboard.  (I have taught her well.)

This blessing/curse of feeling All The Feelings Ever also happens when I read.  As a general rule, I avoid books that contain abducted children for this very reason.  (Although I did watch “Room” recently with my eldest child.  We both ended up screaming “Jump!” at the screen while we ugly cried together.  It was oddly satisfying.)

SPOILER WARNING: THIS THE IS PART WHERE I START TALKING ABOUT OUTLANDER

This All The Feels Ever thing is probably also why I read (and re-re-re-re-read) the Outlander books.  It is why I wept mercilessly at the end of Dragonfly in Amber and called over my daughter as I tried to choke through Jamie and Claire’s parting.  It is why I rejoiced when they were reunited in Voyager.  It is probably why I got so incredibly angry when Lady Sassy-Pants blackmailed Jamie.  It is why the sound of the bodhran sent a shock wave up my spine in  A Breath of Snow and Ashes.  Even now, when I read that bit, I have to read it aloud.  And every time, every single time, I get goosebumps:

I sat up, listening hard. It was a drum with a sound like a beating heart, slow and rhythmic, then trip-hammer fast, like the frantic surge of a hunted beast.

I could have told them that Indians never used drums as weapons; Celts did. It was the sound of a bodhran.

What next? I thought, a trifle hysterically, bagpipes?

It was Roger, certainly; only he could make a drum talk like that. It was Roger, and Jamie was nearby.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, chapter 28 (“Curses”). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The All The Feels Ever Thing works both ways–for good and for bad.  Sure, after Wentworth I could barely function, but there might have been a good bit or two in the books to help balance that out.  *blushes furiously*

*ahem*  Moving on…

I’m not sure if the All The Feels Ever thing is genetic or not, but I am fairely sure my mid-kid has it.  She recently took to binge-watching Switched at Birth on Netflix.  This resulted in her bawling and using an entire box of kleenex when someone was cheated on by someone else.  The knowledge that my genetic predisposition would continue on would have been much more endearing if I was not then re-re-reading a certain bodhran scene and had need of kleenex myself.

My husband rolls his eyes at us both and quietly slips off to buy more tissue.  He knew early on what he was getting into.  He teases me about crying over an old Lifesaver commercial and a certain episode of the Simpsons.  Yeah, he knew just fine what I was all about.

I used to wonder about this.  This whole All The Feelings Ever thing.  But then Outlander, as it so often does, offered me an explanation.  In An Echo in the Bone, Claire has to leave her beloved cheetie Adso behind.

“Go on, then,” I said, and set him on the ground.  He stood for a moment, tail waving slowly, head raised in search of food or interesting smells, then stepped into the grass and vanished.

I bend, very slowly, arms crossed, and shook, weeping silently, violently.

I cried until my throat hurt and I couldn’t breathe, then sat in the grass, curling into myself like a dried leaf, tears that I couldn’t stop dropping on my knees like the first fat drops of a coming storm.  Oh, God.  It was only the beginning.

I tubbed my hands hard over my eyes, smearing the wetness, trying to scrub away grief.  A soft cloth touched my face, and I looked up, sniffling, to find Jamie kneeling in front me, handkerchief in hand.

“I’m sorry,” he said very softly.

“It’s not–don’t worry, I’m . . . He’s only a cat,” I said, and a small fresh grief tightened like a band round my chest.

“Aye, I know.”  He moved beside me and put an arm around my shoulders, pulling my head to his chest, while he gently wiped my face.  “But ye couldna weep for the bairns.  Or the house.  Or your wee garden.  Or the poor dead lass and her bairn.  But if ye weep for your cheetie, ye know you can stop.”

“How do you know that?”  My voice was thick, but the band round my chest was not quite so tight.

He made a small, rueful sound.

“Because I canna weep for those things, either, Sassenach.  And I havena got a cat.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE, chapter 12 (“Enough”). Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Maybe I can’t weep for my husband’s heart attack and the resultant health problems.  I can’t weep for the mass in my mother’s lung.  I can’t weep for the heart tests that my eldest daughter is enduring.  If I start, I don’t know that I can stop.  But I can find some escape, some joy, and the release of some much needed tears between the pages of a book.  And, for that, I am so grateful.