The Dark Has Its Own Light

A Swift Current The Dark Has Its Own Light

Elmer Bischoff– Figure at Window with Boat, 1964

As you come to this last page, there’s a sense of reaching out– for something that you can’t quite reach–that you can’t quite get. When you get to the top, you haven’t got it, but there’s a breathing out,

and accepting

that’s how it is…

It’s anything but a resolution. It’s not a reassurance either. It’s not that everything is going to be alright–nothing is going to be alright.

It’s just about accepting the way things are…

Words by pianist Paul Lewis about
Schubert’s last Sonata
The New York Times
August 2, 2016

Six years

after my mother’s death,

I have found

a certain peace.

It’s anything but a resolution;

it’s not a reassurance either;

and it certainly is not catharsis.

My mother is dead.

Her absence is an indelible part of me–

a space that cannot be filled—

nor should it.

Time does not heal;

I still long

for what cannot be–

but my grief

is tempered by



even joy.

Six years

after my mother’s death,

I still shed tears

but I don’t fight them.

They are my silent– even welcome—recognition

of what I’ve lost and

what I live for.

Six years later,

she visits my dreams

with startling clarity–

pushing –prodding–


she makes her stand

in the dead of night.

Six years later,

I hear her voice

in my thoughts and

in my words — from

silly asides to

serious exhortations–

I am astonished to realize

she lives on

through me.

Six years later,

I look back;

I move forward;

everything’s going to be alright–

nothing is going to be alright.

As I come to this page,

there’s still a sense of reaching out

for something I can’t quite get;

for someone I will never see.

But there’s a breathing out—


the way things are.

My mother is dead.

I stare into the void


finally see.

The dark has its own light.



In a dream I meet
my dead friend. He has,
I know, gone long and far,
and yet he is the same
for the dead are changeless.
They grow no older.
It is I who have changed,
grown strange to what I was.
Yet I, the changed one,
ask: “How you been?”
He grins and looks at me.
“I’ve been eating peaches
off some mighty fine trees.”

~~ Wendell Barry



A Swift Current The Dark Has Its Own Light Corita Kent and Mickey Myers

As seen on a friend’s bookshelf…words by poet Theodore Roethke–print by Corita Kent and Mickey Myers, 1984

When I first read the interview with pianist Paul Lewis, his words stopped me in my tracks. In describing the final page of the slow movement of Schubert’s Sonata in B flat, Lewis helped clarify my then-muddled thoughts about my evolving grief.  Here is the link to the New York Times interview by David Allen:

A Meeting in A Part– copyright Wendell Barry, 1980 All Rights Reserved

Like Paul Lewis’s words, seeing the Corita Kent/Mickey Myers print at a friend’s home helped me think about loss.  Corita Kent’s artwork is the copyright of the Immaculate Heart Community All Rights Reserved– for more information


10 thoughts on “The Dark Has Its Own Light

  1. This is such a haunting and intelligent weaving of loss and acceptance – your voice, Barry’s quote, the startling painting of darkness against the white sails and red, Schubert’s music in the background. I love the intermingling, the quiet pace and the refrain. So well done. Your mother would be (is?) proud. >

    • Thank you Kathleen (whose writing I love so much). You get it–as you alternate would be with is…because that is the point of the piece. In the original drafts, I had the line…my mother is gone–but in the late versions, I realized two things. For me, gone is a euphemism–let’s be free to use the horrible, blunt word–dead.

      But also and more importantly, she is anything but gone. She makes frequent appearances–from paintings to music to owls to messages in my dreams to the exact phrases coming out of my mouth, she startles and confounds me (one anecdote: my sister and I were doing an inventory of her art collection, and in the middle of our work, a photo of my mom inexplicably popped up on my laptop. We both just laughed–she has to be right in the middle of things–just as she would like it!)

      But thank you also for your comment on the juxtaposition of images and words…and I had hoped someone would be inspired to listen to Schubert. He has long been one of my favorite composers…now perhaps in part I know why…

      Thank you,

  2. Lovely post. Seems like you have finished your journey with this post. Am I correct?

    lovely post. seems like u hv finished your journey with this post. am I correct

    • Thank you. I don’t know if “finished” is the right description–but I certainly feel I have explored many layers of both my mother’s decade of dementia and my experience of grief. In terms of a somewhat linear discussion of these issues, I do feel this piece is a final elegy of sorts.

      That said, I continue to be committed to eldercare issues–some related to my mom’s experience-some not. With that in mind, I envision that I will continue to write in this forum, although I imagine the tone would likely change, depending on the subject.

      While to date this post has not generated many public comments, privately I have received a large number of responses–including one from a man whose wife died just 6 weeks ago. As long as A Swift Currentcan be relevant to people and help (in some small way), I would like to continue. I imagine the pace of posts will be more like 2016 (only two) rather than the initial flurry of the first year.

      We shall see…

  3. I was also wondering if this was going to be your last post. I feel like I have been here with you every step of the way. Although I only met your beautiful mother one time (and your father was there that night), I feel as though I know her very well and now I know you very well and I love this person who gave so much to me in these writings. My 94 year old mother is still holding on tightly to life even though each day is harder than the next and I feel this will be the year to she will be with my father. I feel more prepared because of your journey. Thank you Hallie. Hugs

    • When I started A Swift Current, my goal was to create something I wish I had found at the time. I thought that if I could relay our story–without admonitions, or lists of “dos and don’ts”–it might be helpful to people who are now on that lonely road. I am so grateful that you feel I have succeeded in my mission. Please feel free to share the link with anyone who is facing these trials.

      As I said in an earlier comment, I do not intend to “abandon” this writing–but I do feel I have told our story. But I will always be here-ready to roll up my sleeves and offer my perspective on the issues you are facing as you help your mom in the tough year ahead.

      Thank you,

  4. Beautifully thought out and expressed. The realization that your mom continues to live on through you is cathartic; discovering that “The dark has its own light”. Her health issues and passing prodded you into writing these insightful and inspiring posts….she would be proud. As she was kind to others during her life, you are continuing her spirit.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • Oh Emma, what a lovely response. You make me feel that all the effort here has been worthwhile. I have said countless times, but will reiterate, that every time I post, I feel a little like I am jumping off a cliff. I go through such doubt about these musings, but ultimately hope that my experience and reflections can help someone.

      For some reason, WordPress did not notify me of your comment, and so I apologize that I did not see this and respond earlier. WordPress has also blocked some commenters–I have no idea how or why (some people have written to me that they have drafted comments only to be denied posting…).

      It is an honor to think I am continuing her spirit.

      Thank you, H

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