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In a Great Cloud

In a Great Cloud

by Kate Beeby, Essayist and Children’s Christian Formation professional

I’d switched off the stunned talking heads in the darkest hours. They had no real answers. After impatiently shifting the Beagle anchored stubbornly in my spot to the middle of the bed where he belongs, I pulled the covers tight against my angst, knowing I would rise, very early, before our only child, so I might break the news to her, to tell her it would be OK. If not apparently so, in some theological way.  I was not convinced, and neither was she.

Later that morning, after a supremely competent, and also human, candidate conceded, my longing for a woman president of these United States unrequited by the disenfranchising electoral college, I phoned my parents. I had waited to call, so as not to wake them. I knew they’d stayed up late, also trying to make sense of what happened. Dazed, demoralized, and down, I anticipated the same from them. I was unprepared for a stunning direct hit on mortality.

My mother: “What I am saddest about, is that this will be the last president that I am alive to see in office.”

Mostly reconciled to both the alpha and omega, I speak openly of death, or at least try to, to take the sting out, among other things. But that raw day I did not even try. 

Me: “Don’t say that. We will have another presidential election in four years. Maybe not a woman, but you will know another president.” This to an octogenarian in fragile health.  I could not tolerate hopelessness in the most hopeful person I knew.

She died just hours before Robert Mueller released his report to William Barr. Not that any justice was done.

So this morning, as I readied myself for church that would be masked, socially distant and outdoors, because 225,000 Americans and counting have died.  Dying for want of leadership. Dying because so many of us put ourselves and our own interests before the needs of others. Or have joined a death cult of civil liberties. On the very same day we would hear Jesus’ Great Commandments.

Uncharacteristically, I carefully consider what I will wear. Not to ward off the cold as we pray in the chill shade of a large tree stubbornly clinging to golden leaves, ospreys circling the bell tower overhead. And not because, just after church, I will join my husband in an hours-long wait, in that same chill, in a steady line of fellow citizens, also masked, socially distant and outdoors, as we amicably shift forward at unpredictable intervals. 

Inside the closet, I reach up among things carefully washed and neatly folded during a bout of organizing in early lockdown, and find her warm rust sweater, not really my color, though she wore it well. I pad across the worn hand-me-down Heriz, to open my jewelry box, perusing treasures my sisters and I shared when we sorted through our mother’s things, nearly a year ago to the day. I lift out a gold bracelet, each link delicately engraved, a fancy gift from her daughters to mark a milestone birthday. For good measure, I choose another of her favorites, a small but weighty pin, also gold, cast in the form of a flourish of elegant 19th century script.  Jewelry too extravagant, too luxurious, too festive, for this endless season of mourning.

I carry on with my plan anyway. My husband tenderly hooks the bracelet around my wrist, knowing the weight of it. I fasten the pin to the sweater, checking the latch. Somehow no longer inheritance, nor adornment. But horcruxes bearing my mother into the voting booth, summoning her witness and a great cloud– love before, love after, love all around–as I carefully fill in bubbles with the County Board of Elections’ pen.

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Richard Gatjens

Our relationships with and memories of our parents are among the most powerful and important that we can have. What a wonderful tribute to your mother and her impact on you. Thank you for writing this.

Ann Breen Metcalfe

Kate Beeby writes beautifully about life’s most powerful experiences, the loss of her dear mother and the aberration that became our country’s leadership in 2016. In dealing with these sorrows she adorns herself with family jewelry to reflect a history of love and beauty that is far more potent than the recent past. She gives me confidence.

Betty

Beautifully written. Kate you are an amazing writer. Love you.

Addie

amazing piece! I love you mom and I’m so proud of everything you write (and do)!

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