A Day of Grief, Rest and Worms

It rained today. It’s the first day of March on the Wet Coast of Canada so that’s almost a given. It was also a Friday which meant it was the first time I was able to be with my temple congregation as I mourned my mother. I had longed for today since getting home late Sunday, well really since learning the news.

That I am not doing well by any measure seems clears enough. I weighed myself today and found another 8 kilograms had vanished from my body, claimed by the forces that make texture in food intolerable at times like this and remembering to eat what I whip up that I think I can tolerate a long shot.

I tried to have a normal day other than not working. I went to my country band practice even though this week it seems habitual for me to wake after only a few hours sleep and so I found myself just starting to fall asleep again when it was time to get ready. It took me in this scattered state of pretty close to no executive function over an hour to locate my keys. I never did locate my music. When I got home I saw it was just where it should be even though I had a clear impression of looking right there many times earlier.

So I did my best to have the life I usually live or the recreational bits anyway which is what my friends have said to do. To ease back into the more arduous things as I am ready, but not to be a hermit. So I went to my rehearsal on Thursday and the one today. At one point I nearly burst into tears on Thursday over the fact that the recordings I had asked our sound technician to make of our last concert would never be heard by my mother.

I got myself to temple stopping at the library, despite not having a hope in heck of finding my library card. They know me there and usually you get two free borrows a year without one but since it was also Shabbat I didn’t have anything but my bus pass with me. I leave my wallet behind habitually and as stressed as I was words weren’t going to come to say as much but somehow the book I waited for 5 months got checked out to me all the same. The clerk said that for the record a bus pass does not work it should be something like a care card if I don’t have my library card. That got words out of me as I protested they are both issued by the government and the bus pass actually has more information on it that she is actually able to read. She demagnetized my book with more of a thud than seemed necessary and I escaped.

Our congregation meets at the Jewish Community Centre so every week there is a the usual hubbub of people getting ready on Jewish time. I have mused about how as a group, such unpunctual people even made it out of the dessert in 40 years but that has not sped up the pace any. So it was familiar. We donned our kippot and grabbed our prayer books and I headed to “my spot”. Then I realized there would be a bottleneck of people anxious to hug me so I left those behind and went to be comforted a bit. I wouldn’t have guessed 18 months ago that I would go out of my way to be hugged by people but the embraces that used to be something to endure were healing tonight.

The service was familiar of course but while familiar it is also different each time as different people read or give stress to different things and different meditations are chosen. I did not cry until the meditation before the Mourner’s Kaddish. Then I couldn’t stop for a bit. During the familiar rhythms of it I did stop until the last few words. But I was among friends. An arm planted firmly on me on both sides and so I suppose it served it’s centuries old function.

We gathered for the oneg after (-to delight ; so a bit more elaborate than a coffee hour). Our congregation usually spends twice as much time in this phase of things than the service which is not to say we skimp on the service bit but the social part takes a long, long, time. When I first started going it was so hard for me that they were so social. The eating and drinking together had always been something to flee quickly and now there was no fleeing without feeling like somehow you were failing to fully appreciate and take delight in Shabbat so I learned to enjoy that. Tonight especially when for most of the week I had been holed up in my place trying to sleep away my pain, or when I had ventured among humans been in more structured situations it was good to just sit and drink tea out of my blue cup, and eat what had been brought.

It’s important for me to eat when I am with people as I am so horrible at it the rest of the time so did. I brought my baby book which doesn’t go much past the age of 3 for me but since no one had ever seen my mom I brought it in case I had nothing to say or too much to say. Pictures it seemed would help.

My dog always gets a walk on Shabbat. I am Reform so no fear that I may inadvertently tame a wild beast keeps us from that. It is one of our rituals to walk with him and enjoy the peace and outdoors. In the summer before services often, as the days get so long that it feels Shabbat will never arrive but at this time of year afterwards. I think about and to marvel in whatever has come up or the portion for the week or whatever comes to mind, usually while simultaneously marvelling at the night sky when it is visible.

Usually I look up at the lights and think myriad thoughts and one would expect my thoughts to be on my mother tonight and they had been until then but as I said at the outset it was raining and had rained with only short respite for days. So my mission was clear. There were worms that needed saving.

When it rains for days on end hundreds of worms wash down onto the sidewalk. Some misguided worms crawl towards the street where if they are unlucky they will fall off the curb and be swept down the street in a torrent of water. Others will simply wind up in a puddle and meet a more visibly gruesome death as their body swells with more water than they can handle. Neither are ever acceptable outcomes to me.

People might be tempted to think I went at my worm rescue with more intensity than normal tonight because I couldn’t save my mother but that worms will be rescued is a given for me. There were rather more in need of rescue tonight and I had to give it up at the point where my dog became so wet I feared for his health but I relocated the worms who had only strayed near danger back onto nearby lawns. The ones who had nearly perished though I regarded as likely to do something stupid in worm terms if left too their own devices so into my pocket they went. They were in need of relocation to the worm sanctuary outside my door. Far from a street or gutter and where no one walks.

I’ve sometimes even wondered about the ethics or rescuing stupid worms. By actually placing the worms most likely to have come near death in the safest situation ultimately am I tampering with their gene pool? Am I breeding for stupidity? Should I, a mere mortal, even intervene? Yes, I can get more mileage out of the art of saving worms than some might imagine.

I used to anguish about this separation of the worms I viewed as not trustworthy enough to be left near the scene of their near demise (IE most likely to just resume crawling towards the sidewalk) . I had a nice backyard where I did a bit of gardening until this past year. When I did worm rescue and brought back some to there I would wonder if worms got lonely for their close kin or not. On a rational level I know enough about their nervous systems to dismiss this as silly but somehow just as some types of people might wonder if they are hurting a rock, despite being very logical and rational I always feel like I am weighing the likely sure death of the worm over it’s separation from the familiar. I of course am not one to underestimate how catastrophic separation from the familiar is.

Anyway into my pocket went the worms I had actually plucked from near death. Two so soggy I wasn’t entirely sure they would ever wriggle again (they did) one that had dangled right on the edge of the curb as we walked by and one I had plucked out of rivulet of water as it swept towards certain death. The worms are oblivious to all this I suppose. If I wanted to make this in anyway about my life and not just my habitual rescue of worms who will be stepped on, swept away or drown I might be tempted to think that I went at it this intensely because almost nothing this year has been in my control.

I couldn’t stop myself from losing my place that I lived, my health, more of my health, or my mom but dangnabbit that improbably long worm dangling from the curb was not going to get swept into the sewer system. I was tempted to think well it’s not an exercise of control over the fate of some barely sentiment being in a merciless universe because I always do exactly this but then I thought about it.

A lot of my life feels not unlike that of a worm in a long stormy stretch. The worm is battered by more rain than it can handle in a stormy stretch, swept from the familiar into the possibly dangerous and filled to a point of near death with water. The past 15 months it feels like the universe has rained down one horrible happening after another on me. There have been a few good but very few good. Like the worm that never gets to dry out enough to be out of danger, I never get a stable stretch enough to even begin to brace for the next deluge.

So then I have to wonder is this worm rescue I diligently perform even in more stable times still my attempt to control some beings fate all the same. It may be just an extension of other familiar repetitive rites made to comfort and create the sense of structure just in a more eleborate guise. Who knows? I don’t. Or maybe I do and it doesn’t matter.

I’m drained and sad, and have a hole in my life that won’t even begin to mend any time soon so if all I know at the end of the day is that I was finally able to mourn with my closest friends, and that approximately 80 worms were saved from possible squishing and drowning and about half a dozen from certain death isn’t that at the end of the day about all I could hope for from a day like today?

The day we flew home when my dog was so distraught by any separation from me I kept telling him tomorrow would be better but in fact the tomorrows of this week have not been. Not yet. We head into this tomorrow, a day that is always a day of rest so not as atypical from all the other days of rest we have had this week only able to claim some small victory over the elements that sought to destroy some worms. A very small victory except we are at least heading into another day. That hasn’t always been a given in all of the chaos and pain of the past 15 months so while some people no doubt would rate both the religious aspects of my life and the worm rescuing ones about equally pointless to me they have a point.

I don’t normally even try to defend the religious parts as they don’t need defending. The worm rescue parts well it’s something that some people knew about but most didn’t but it is how I spent the last part of a very long day, in a very long week, in a very long year and so on.

Anyone hoping for something more moving, or illuminating as far as either autism or grief goes is probably feeling a bit robbed and it’s not like the worms will be singing my praises as they dry out, and burrow into new soil but that was my today. It could have been much worse – although not much wetter.

nsbeach 2514x1603

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “A Day of Grief, Rest and Worms

  1. I would humbly suggest that the saving of so many worms and your religous rituals are exactly the point and this post is a testament to that. I love the way you write and how you think.

  2. Ariane guided me to your beautifully sensitive writing – that I might otherwise not have read… and that would have been a shame. I am deeply moved.
    I relate to and appreciate your description of worm-saving and your contemplation of the impact, as I had a childhood full of worm-saving and berry-eating and puddles and forest-wandering… and the deep wonderings that come with this. I am still on the wet coast – I maybe need to get back to that.
    Sending you positive thoughts, Gareeth.

  3. Gareeth, my name is Paige and my daughter is Emma. Emma is autistic and 21. We are Jewish, reform as well. I was deeply moved by your blog today. So many traditions in Judaism center on life, even the Mourners Kaddish never mentions the word death. I was interested in how you have been worm-saving, saving the lives of those worms.
    Many people find some comfort in the months of saying Kaddish.
    I was glad I read your blog, on Shabbat.

  4. Well I have to confess lest anyone think I never murdered a worm… When I got my first micrscope worms were among my most frequent victims but I think I paid them back by a factor of ten thousand or so now…

    As for the Kaddish yes it’s a comfort and although it doesn’t mention death I find when saying it now for my mother versus a close friend or in support of someone else all the yit sounds are traps as far as tears trying to come into the voice. But to say it among so many friends, which I would not have imagined even 18 month, ago is a gift.

  5. I love your writing, too. And worms are living beings, so why not save them? No doubt some of all the reasons you suggested, played a role in Friday’s rescue, but you’ve been rescuing worms for far longer, so clearly, all those contributing factors are not the only reason. Bottom line – life is holy. That’s what we believe as Jews. So why not save them? I have to admit I’ve never thought about rescuing them, but I wouldn’t kill them either. Although I think I might have gtortured a few as a kid! And one Spring on Saltspring, I lifted the lid of my (supposedly empty) hot tub, and discovered it filled with worms, about 2 inches deep right across the bottom of it. It was like the snake pit in Raiders of the Lost Ark, only worms! I was really grossed out; I never got into the hot tub again; in fact, I got rid of it, and I guess the worms got dumped out when they took it away!

    • Oh don’t misunderstand I wasn’t feeling I had to apologize for saving them – it’s just something I do. I just thought based on the ways people who arrive here who don’t actually know me get here that some might think what the heck is this about worms… I was wrong it seems as it was my most liked piece so far so I guess I don’t understand blogging well.

  6. I don’t know if you remember me, but you were one of the first people I met after my diagnosis, 12 years ago. You were very helpful to me then and I rejoice to see you again, but sorrow to see you in such a difficult stretch. At times like these, I think on the story of the prophet and the valley of dried bones that took on flesh, stood up, and walked. May your dried bones take on flesh –through remembering, through writing, through the comfort of ritual, through the everyday familiarity of rescuing worms — and may you find the sinews to walk through your valley and come out the other side, renewed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s