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

Pins and Needles and Prayers

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Christmas with Mom (2015)

Tomorrow is my mom’s brain scan, and I am on pins and needles.  We will find out if her lung cancer has metasticized to her brain.  If you are a prayerful person, if you have been known to offer up well-wishes, to light candles, or to otherwise implore to something Bigger, something More, please keep my mom in your thoughts…your prayers…your heart.

This is all the words I have in me today.

These are the only words that matter.

#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.

Guilt, Burden, & Other Half Told Tales

Last night I was driving home from work and listening to NPR. NPR is one of the things that make my commute bearable. And, yes, I will admit it…more than once I have sat in the garage, or in a parking lot, and waited for a story to end rather than leave a tale half-told.

Often I turn on the radio in the middle of a story, as was the case last night. I heard the word “Challenger” and my mind raced back. I was fourteen when the Challenger disaster happened. My middle school science class was watching the launch live in the classroom. I, home sick, was watching it in my living room. In the 80s, a magical aura still clung to space travel and people stopped to admire the wonderful impossibility of it all.

imageSeventy-three seconds after the launch, the spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean. It was the first tragedy that I recall seeing play out on television. God knows it hasn’t been the last, but there is something about The Firsts that seem to etch them onto your soul. Perhaps that is why, even now, every time I hear that word… Challenger…my mind always goes back to that cold January morning, with me in my pajamas, my disbelieving eyes glued to the screen.

But that’s only half of the story.

So when I heard the word last night, I paused again. I wanted to hear the other half. I wanted to hear What Happened After. As it turns out, what happened was just as painful and tragic as the accident itself.

I have only seen launches on screen. I have never been privy to the meticulous preparations which they require. I don’t know the myriad of people who are cogs in the giant machine that is NASA. The closest I can imagine is that a launch is an elaborately choreographed dance that requires perfect timing and no missteps.

On January 27th 1986, Bob Ebeling was one of those involved in the dance. He was also one of the engineers who tried to keep Challenger grounded. He was one of the engineers who presented their data and argued for hours that the launch was unsafe, but NASA rejected the data and the men were overruled. The launch would continue.

The NPR story recounts:

“It’s going to blow up,” a distraught and defeated Ebeling told his wife, Darlene, when he arrived home that night.

And it did, 73 seconds after liftoff. Seven astronauts died. Cold weather and an O-ring failure were blamed, and Ebeling carried three decades of guilt.

“That was one of the mistakes God made,” Ebeling, now 89, told me three weeks ago at his home in Brigham City, Utah. “He shouldn’t have picked me for that job. But next time I talk to him, I’m gonna ask him, ‘Why me? You picked a loser.'”

Sitting in my car, hearing the pain in his voice—the self-loathing and condemnation—the weight of his guilt was palpable. I can’t imagine the burden he has carried these past 30 years.

Strange, though, the way guilt works. Sometimes it finds us right after a perceived wrong, and sometimes it ripples just under the surface only to rear its head years later. And guilt, like so many unwelcome guests, never wants to leave. Guilt will linger long after the wrong was paid and repaid. For some, no amount of emotional self-flagellation can atone for the wrongs we wear like a scarlet letter on our soul.

Rather than acknowledging what he did to try to prevent the tragedy, Mr. Ebeling was haunted by that which he could not control.

Part of what always haunted me about this particular tragedy was that one moment the crew was there, and the next minute they were gone. Literally….gone. Disintegrated. Nothing remained but memories. Perhaps, faced with the aftermath, this is why Mr. Ebeling took up the burden of this guilt…not because he had done something wrong, but because he felt someone must take responsibility. So he did. He assumed responsibility. And, like Atlas, he shouldered the burden.

What If…

If only…

I should have…

Familiar words. I’ve said them so often they are like a mantra. I’ve collected my fair share of guilt over the years–some rightfully earned, some imagined…and some I’ve collected with the sense that someone must carry the story of the wrong–the injustice–forward. If such stories aren’t told and retold then how can we learn from them?

History is a burden. A wonderful, painful burden.

This is why I’ve talked to my children about the Holocaust, even though—at the age of nearly-fourteen—my eldest child’s school has not broached the subject. This is why we have talked about slavery, and school shootings, and genocide, and rape, and so many other painful, horrifying, heart-breaking things. Maybe if we talk about them, we can share the burden. Maybe if we talk about them, we can learn from them.

God bless, you Mr. Ebeling. Thank you for sharing your burden. And tonight, when I gather my children around the table, they’ll hear the tale of a brave man who spoke up and tried to prevent tragedy and, when he couldn’t, who had the grace to carry onward the memories of those lost.

“A burden shared is a burden halved.”

Rest easy, Mr. Ebeling. We’ll carry their memories now.

 

Preparations (and #whisky cake)

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Home and hearth.

The rest of the house sleeps, but the early hours–the hours before the sun breaks over the ridge–are the hours that allow my thoughts  to percolate…and my preparations for the things that lies ahead.  The  morning moments, before the bustle of breakfast or the scurry of the workday, grant me peace; I accept the offering and try not to squander it.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  The amazing abundance that makes it the table is a labor of love.  I tend to plan my meal months in advance.  Some of the dishes will be found at tables across America, and others are simply family favorites.

Last night I brined the turkey.  Last year was our first year to brine the holiday bird, and it was such a success that it was quickly decreed that All Birds Henceforth Shall Be Brined.

Today will be filled with All Things Cranberry: the traditional Cranberry Relish, our beloved Neil Gaiman Cranberry Sauce, and Sugared Cranberries.  (Seriously, there is nothing more precious than hearing a small child say, in his best Holiday Manners, “More Neil Gamain Cranberry Sauce, please?”)

Desserts will also fill the oven today.  Whisky cake*, pumpkin pie, and pecan tassies.  The sugar  cookie and Pfeffernüsse dough were made over the last weekend and are ready to be baked on Thanksgiving night as we drag all of the Christmas decorations down from the attic.

Today I’ll make fudge (pumpkin, and peppermint, and chocolate), peanut brittle, and rum sauce.   Candy dishes will be filled and refilled as little hands sneak “just a taste” when I turn to stir a pot or peek in the oven.

Tomorrow is for side dishes and things-that-go-on-trays.  Pickle trays, cheese trays, olive trays, veggie trays…  Heaping piles of side dishes will be prepared: mashed potatoes, praline sweet potatoes, salads, quinoa and wild rice with cranberries and carmalized onions.

Tomorrow is for last-minute vacuuming by over-eager children with energy to burn (likely from the rush of stolen sugary-things).

Tomorrow is for trying to fill the table with all the foods that represent home, and family, and tradition; for wishes of a winter filled with Enough…enough food, enough warmth, enough family and friends, enough Love to make it through the years Dark Days.

As you go about your last minute preparations, I wish you Enough.

 

* If you will be having family over for the holdays, or going to visit family, I HIGHLY recommend making a whisky cake.  My version is very, erm, “bracing.”  Just the thing for a lovely day with the in-laws. 💕

Do-Overs

The older I get, the more childlike I feel. Perhaps it is realizing that, like Jon Snow, I know nothing. Or maybe it is just the fact that, knowing that I know nothing, I am eager to change that.

Fortunately, life (like the seasons) often circles back upon itself. It provides time for do-overs. We can learn again the things we have learned before and long since forgotten. Thank God for do-overs. Hopefully, I am getting it right this time around.

As a child, I knew that it felt good to kick of my shoes and feel the cool earth beneath my feet. As a young adult, I wore stylish shoes, too high heels, and footwear that would never be mistaken for as “sensible.” Now, I can go days without wearing shoes, and I make sure to plant my heels firmly on the grass each day and to feel the earth under foot.

As I child, I lost entire days between the pages of books. Pale and hungry I’d emerge from my room just long enough to find sustenance before returning to find out just what happened to Laura Ingalls this time. As a young adult, I read for a diploma but rarely for pleasure. Then, with diploma in hand, I went to work. Metaphors and similes were replaced with legalese. Page after page of words that cost a lot…but which said very little. Now I have stumbled back between the pages, and I have written some pages myself. And I have rediscovered the beauty and value of words on a page.

As a child, I snuck home a stray kitten and hid them in my closet. I snuck them food and water, made a makeshift litter box out of a shoebox and, when soon discovered, begged and pleaded with my parents to be able to keep her. As a young adult, I stifled my love of animals. With animals came responsibilities, and expense, and inconvenient attachments. While I avoided such attachments, I also missed out on the unconditional love and joy they bring. Now I have three cats, a dog, and four chickens. (And a very tolerant husband who does not bemoan the investment of time or money for their care.) Chickens may be “verra poor company,” but they are a very sweet distraction. And, in case I haven’t mentioned it…EGGS!

imageAs I child, I knew that I was well cared for. I never fretted about it. I just knew. As a young adult, I wanted to prove that I needed no one, that I was capable and competent and that everything was under control. Life laughed a lot and quickly showed me who was boss. (Hint: It wasn’t me!) As an adult, I realize that very little is in my control. But I feel cared for anyway. I am surrounded by people who care. I am surrounded by more kindness and generosity than I could ever imagine.

As a child, I never thought about what I looked like or how much I weighed. I was just me. And that was enough. As a young adult, I tried unhealthy things to obtain what I believed to be a “healthy” look. I dyed my hair black. I permed it. I straightened it. I wore colored contacts. If I looked at myself in a mirror too long the faults were magnified and would ruin my entire day. I took cover behind make-up like a warrior behind his shield. Now, I rarely wear makeup. My “hair style” is whatever I hack off late at night when I realize it is getting unruly. I have traded contacts for glasses, and I can go days without looking at a mirror. I hike and run–not for what it does to my waist line, but for what it does for my soul.

This is forty-three.
This is forty-three.

Finally, at 43 I am comfortable in my own skin. I don’t know quite how we will manage all the medical issues, and the medical bills, and the fifteen year old van that is on its last leg, and…well, all of those “real life” things. But we will. Somehow, we will.

I know nothing.

But I know that.

Fragments of Faith and Ian Murray (Religion in #Outlander, Part III)

Balance. It’s all about balance.  At least that’s what I tell myself when Life goes all Black Jack Randall on me. When there are too many bills and responsibilities and too little money and laughter and sleep.  And it’s my birthday later this week, and I despise birthdays.  Long story.  Anyway….

Balance. Yep. And faith. Lots of faith. And perseverance. So. Much. Perserverance.

image(And since my husband assures me that I can relate ANYTHING to Outlander…)

SPOILERS FOLLOW.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.  NO SERIOUSLY, THERE ARE LOTS OF SPOILERS.

The past week has required quite a bit of faith and perseverance. It’s been enough to make a woman feel a bit like Job…or maybe some other man I’ve read quite a lot about lately who, likewise, seems to have more than his fair share of troubles, namely: Young Ian James Fitzgibbons Fraser Murray (a/k/a Okwaho’kenha, or “Wolf’s Brother”).

Let me start by saying that I adore Young Ian. Adore him. He may be young, but he has an old soul, and Lord knows he has lived more in his young life that many an older man, and his spiritual journey reflects this.

Young Ian first finds blood on his hands in Voyager, not long after Claire and Jamie’s reunion (excuse me while I grab a wee dram…and some Kleenex…plenty of Kleenex). He seeks solace in the pleasures of the flesh as well as the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation. (Not at the same time, of course.) This seems an early hint at the back and forth, the push and pull, that seems to color the wee lad’s life.

In Drums of Autumn, Young Ian is ordered to leave behind his old ways…to leave himself behind.*

“They say that after that I will be Indian, and I must not speak any tongue but the Kahnyen’kehaka; I canna speak again in English, or the Gaelic.”

He is, in effect, being told to shed his identity.**  Also, of course, he would have been expected to leave behind the religion that had defined him since birth. How could he possibly make such a sacrifice, to turn his back everything that made him who he was? It’s unthinkable. But the wise and selfless soul finds the words for us….

“Ye said to me once, that my life wasna meant to be wasted,” he said. “It won’t be.” He held out his arms. “I willna forget you, either, Uncle Jamie.”

(Please ignore that noise…it is just the sound of my heart breaking.)

Of course, Young Ian doesn’t forget Jamie. Nor does he forget his religion. It does, however, change over time.

Young Ian struggles with reconciling his Catholic religion and Highland heritage with the things he learned and experienced while living with the Mohawk tribe. We get a glimpse at this struggle when he confides in Brianna at the Mammoth site.

At one point, he mutters under his breath.

“What did you say?” She paused, a half- hulled nut in her fingers.

“Oh, it’s no but a— ” He’d struck once more and caught a spark, glowing like a tiny star on the square of char. Hastily, he touched a wisp of dry grass to it, then another, and as a tendril of smoke rose up, added a bark chip, more grass, a handful of chips, and finally a careful crisscross of pine twigs.

“No but a fire charm,” he finished, grinning at her over the infant blaze that had sprung up before him.

Ian confides in Brianna that he has been thinking about God. She seems taken aback.

“What I am thinking,” he said after a moment, his voice much too controlled, “is this. Was it me?”

“Ian! You mean your fault that the baby died? How could it be?”

“I left,” he said simply, straightening up. “Turned away. Stopped being a Christian, being Scots. They took me to the stream, scrubbed me wi’ sand to take away the white blood. They gave me my name— Okwaho’kenha— and said I was Mohawk. But I wasna, not really.”

* * *
“But I wasna what I had been, either,” he went on, sounding almost matter- of- fact. “I tried to be what they wanted, ken? So I left off praying to God or the Virgin Mother, or Saint Bride. I listened to what Emily said, when she’d tell me about her gods, the spirits that dwell in the trees and all. And when I went to the sweat lodge wi’ the men, or sat by the hearth and heard the stories … they seemed as real to me as Christ and His saints ever had.” He turned his head and looked up at her suddenly, half- bewildered, half- defiant.

“I am the Lord thy God,” he said. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. But I did, no? That’s mortal sin, is it not?”

Over time, bits of beliefs and fragments of faith war for dominance, become intertwined, and finally weave themselves in a tapestry of faith. Like his Uncle Jamie, Ian is faith is complicated and hard-won.

His faith is shaped by this sense of duty and obligation. And, at times, by guilt and forgiveness. Sometimes he is the one to forgive and, other times, well, he is mere flesh and blood (okay, okay, he is fictional, I know)…and, as such, sometimes he is the one desperate for forgiveness. Like when he unknowingly takes the life of Mrs. Bug in An Echo in the Bone:

“It wasn’t your fault,” I said gently.

“I know,” he said, and swallowed. “But I dinna see how I can live.”

He wasn’t dramatic about it at all; his voice was simply bewildered. Rollo licked his hand, and his fingers sank into the dog’s ruff, as though for support.

“What can I do, Auntie?” He looked at me, helpless. “There’s nothing, is there? I canna take it back, or undo it. And yet I keep looking for some way that I can. Something I can do to make things right. But there’s … nothing.”

I sat down in the hay next to him and put an arm round his shoulder, pressing his head toward me. He came, reluctantly, though I felt small constant shudders of exhaustion and grief running through him like a chill.

“I loved her,” he said, so low I could barely hear him. “She was like my grandmother. And I— ”

“She loved you,” I whispered. “She wouldn’t blame you.” I had been holding on to my own emotions like grim death, in order to do what had to be done. But now … Ian was right. There was nothing, and in sheer helplessness, tears began to roll down my face. I wasn’t crying. Grief and shock simply overflowed; I could not contain them. Whether he felt the tears on his skin or only the vibrations of my grief, I couldn’t tell, but quite suddenly Ian gave way as well, and he wept in my arms, shaking.

The thing about actually believing in something, really believing, is that it marks you. Ian’s soul has long been marked by his faith, his heritage, his values…and when he unknowingly violates the code by which he lives, it weighs mightily on him.

At the funeral, he faces Arch Bug with to offer compensation, just as his did before when he offered himself to the Mohawks in place of Roger.

“It was by my hand that this”— Ian swallowed— “that this woman of great worth has died. I didna take her life by malice, or of purpose, and it is sorrow to me. But she died by my hand.”

Rollo whined softly by Ian’s side, feeling his master’s distress, but Ian laid a hand on his head, and he stilled. Ian drew the knife from his belt and laid it on the coffin in front of Arch Bug, then straightened and looked him in the eye.

“Ye swore once to my uncle, in a time of great wrong, and offered life for life, for this woman. I swear by my iron, and I offer the same.” His lips pressed together for an instant, and his throat moved, his eyes dark and sober. “I think ye maybe didna mean it, sir— but I do.”

I found that I was holding my breath, and forced myself to breathe. Was this Jamie’s plan? I wondered. Ian plainly meant what he said. Still, the chances of Arch accepting that offer on the spot and cutting Ian’s throat in front of a dozen witnesses were slim, no matter how exigent his feelings. But if he publicly declined the offer— then the possibility of a more formal and less bloody recompense was opened, yet young Ian would be relieved of at least a measure of his guilt. Bloody Highlander, I thought, glancing up at Jamie— not without a certain admiration.

Wrong made right. Making things square, as best as one can. Reconciliation.  Balance. Yes, perhaps that’s it. Balance. Equal parts Catholic and superstitious Highlander and Mohawk…all in perfect balance.

So, yes, it has been a rough week…but I haven’t had to take another’s life, or offer my own as compensation for a wrong, nor have I accidentally killed someone (*knock on wood* the week’s not over yet, and there’s no need to tempt Fate) so, all things considered, I suppose my week could have been worse.

Yes, balance.

Lesson learned, Young Ian.  Lesson learned.

* “He will never come to his house again / his place will know him no more.”  Job 7:10.

** Yep. Shed his identity.  Never fear, though, he manages to forge a new kick-ass self out of all that suffering.  May we all fare so well.