that shout

From Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry, on “Decoration Day” at the gravesite of Athey Keith, Jayber’s friend and Della’s husband:

I said, “Hello, Della.”

She ignored my greeting, seeming, in speaking to me, just to go on with her thoughts.  “Well, Jayber, it’s odd the things we do.  I know he’s not here.  Or, anyhow, I don’t feel that he is.  He seems more gone from here than anywhere.  And yet I come here, and I think of him.  I can’t do anything for him where I think he is.  I do what I can.  Those are pretty peonies, don’t you think?”

“They’re beautiful,” I said.

Her eyes had a glaze of tears that did not fall.  I was touched entirely by the look of her and the sound of her voice.  I said, “Della, are you all right?”

She said, “There are leftovers, Jayber.  There are things I did or said that I wish I hadn’t, and things I didn’t do or say that I wish I had.  When he finaly got free of his sickness and awful clumsiness there at the last, I was glad, and yet I was sorry I was glad, and yet I miss him.  But am I all right?  Yes, I am all right.  You know, Jayber, Athey never knew his mother.”

She went her way, then, and left me standing there still as a stone, all filled to running over with the force of what she had put in my mind.

It was the thought of Heaven.  I thought an unimaginable thought of something I could almost imagine, of a sound I could not imagine, of a sound I could not imagine but could almost hear:  the outcry when a soul shakes off death at last and comes into Heaven.  I don’t speak of this because I “know” it.  What I know is that shout of limitless joy, love unbound at last, our only native tongue.

2 thoughts on “that shout”

  1. After long years of battling cancer, the mother of one of my closest childhood friends died this last weekend. I’ve had many thoughts of her and images of our times together come to me this week, feelings of gratitude especially because of the blessing she was in my life growing up. With all of those thoughts though, of the past, present, and future– especially concerning my young friend, most of it just becomes too unthinkable. I’m amazed at the fit timing of your sharing this. Wow! That ‘unimaginable sound’ Berry describes of release, is the most wonderful thought of all. Beautiful!


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