Congratulations to all the Oscar winners from last night! Big night for The Artist. Personally, I was hoping Tree of Life would win something.
**This is an excerpt from something I wrote the night I saw the movie Tree of Life.**
All my friends told me I had to see it. What a great movie it was. Have they forgotten? I had to live this, I had to feel this. Why do I need to watch it all over again?
It was when the mother whispered, “God. Why?”
Everything in the movie was us, was death, was the way reality changed when Will died. From the depths of the ocean to the expanse of the sky, all of that incredible creation collapses when someone you love so much dies. Every wave of the ocean is a wave of grief in your soul; every burning fire on the sun is the anger in your heart. All the music, the piano, the organ. All my life – watching my mother play organ, hands and feet moving to create such a beautiful sound, my father’s tenor voice flowing all over the house. The water – oh! The water. The beaches of our lives – the salty air, even the monsoon rains that flooded our street, the island he was on when he died. Every poem I’ve written about him has water in it somehow.
Even the camera shots – unusual, sideways, angled – showed you how it is when someone dies. Everything is out of place, jumbled, uncomfortable, backwards. No truth is upright anymore.
It was when the older brother said, “Where were you? You let a boy die.” And it was me. I was the older sibling, always expected to do right, to be the example. Loving my mother, struggling with my father. I was walking through that desert, searching for him, for the perfection of my family I had lost.
I can forgive Will. I can forgive him for not wearing a helmet, even for getting on a bike when he knew Mom and Dad didn’t want him to.
But I can’t forgive God. Eleven years, and I still can’t forgive God. You let a boy die. Our boy. My father’s boy. My mother’s little boy. Where were you?
I can’t forgive God for not answering my mother’s prayer that day. Keep my son safe.
Now I light a candle every year, I call my parents on the phone, I wonder how we got through another year. I am the oldest child left with all of it, which means with nothing.
I believed in Him. We all did, my parents gave their lives to Him, and still today, I faithfully take my children every week, I teach them to pray. How do I keep doing this? When I can’t trust anymore? When I can’t feel anymore? All the beauty – the light filtering through trees, wind washing gently over the water, amazing creatures – where is the love I see in these things?
Where were You?
How could the mother say, “God, I give you my son.”
What mother can say that, can do that?
Thoughts are pricking: what about my son? My daughter?
Love them. Wonder.
Has the earth, then no room for them?
Whom does the wind seek? For whom
is the wet glistening of streams?
Is there by the banks
of the pond’s deep dreaming
nowhere they can see their faces reflected?
The need only, as a tree does,
a little space in which to grow.
- Rilke’s Book of Hours, The Book of Poverty and Death, III,29