When Hell Hath Great Fury
In a phone conversation, after the funeral, she said he went to hell. That was how she said it, plain and simple. Except it was the first time she said anything bad about her brother.
It was completely understandable and long overdue. What he did was perhaps just as criminal as murder if you were there, or if you could imagine it.
“Did you ever read The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Ma”?
The question was prompted by mother’s psychic premonition that her brother was, in her words, “Getting his head chopped off and put back on again,” and that “He thinks it is happening because he was cremated,” accentuated by a quick but slight laugh that revealed perhaps a barely audible sound of delight, which surely even God would understand. (How could He not?)
“It says that when we die, the soul reflects our life back to us, how we truly are, and what we hid from the world. As though we knew always who we are from the beginning. Guilt and harm done to others manifests itself in emanations from our own unconscious, that are truths, and what attacks us is really the guilt manifested in human form, and we feel the attack as though alive, like in a terribly vivid dream. It’s the first stage of death. Others attack us and we see and feel the attack as though we are alive. We create the illusion to assuage our own guilt.”
With nothing more to say, she hung up the phone and cried for her mother. She cried deeply and long because it was the first time mother acknowledged her brother’s evil, which confirmed for her the memories she had of him. Like in answer, those reflections now flooded her mind. They were inward resonances, the kind not seen in the world by others attuned by worldly things, the kind that cannot be measured except from memories cloaked in kind and now made whole in stark awareness, as though she too were experiencing at that moment her uncle’s afterlife with him. So many signs and evidence that flooded his soul now flooded hers also. What evidence?
She was not sure, but it was no longer a speculative or “psychological” conclusion hidden by layers of unconsciousness, like sibling rivalry, or bits of memory she once let slip into her mind for only seconds years ago when young and dimly aware. It was more than that. Now she let those thoughts return to flood her mind and to put him here in life, with her, again.
She could feel his spiritual presence, his feet trying to fit into her shoes and his whole spiritual vessel with barren heart (that he exposed only hints of in life) inside her, thus feeling him now as real and his soul as tangible, almost solid, as what a tree is when consumed by the wind within it. In that long moment, she was him, and he was her, and the sensation was matter-of-factly “full” with a deliberate quality of darkness and gloom that provoked nausea as she abandoned her own consciousness to feel it.
Could she save him by warning him? Could she show him what she knows and what she knew all along so he would choose the path of atonement rather than ruin? Would her prayers be enough?
Mother’s brother was a doctor and he knew from what sickness his sister suffered in life – but did nothing – and the world and all the people in it, not even the police, would find the evidence of a crime even if they thought about it or tried to look. He was never suspect. It was the perfect crime no one would believe, much less contain in thought, or try to measure in heart. There was no motive, there was nothing. Nevertheless it began so long ago with an incestuous contempt he harbored alone in his heart, and it was his abandonment of his sister to that end that was the beginning of when he gained the world but lost his soul. Her exploitation was for the greater good of medicine, he told himself.
His death was thus the beginning of this story, not the end; not by any measure.
He had a long way to go, and the infliction of physical pain upon him now was his own soul reflecting back the infliction of pain he bestowed upon his sister. Doesn’t he know evil is never hidden from view, least of all from ourselves, even when we slip by others’ judgment while alive?
In life, on the outside, he appeared at times happy or maybe content, with a modicum of wealth. He drove a Cadillac, irrelevantly white, because it was the only car he could fit into with a gut so large. In his head, one would suppose, he told himself things befitting to his purpose on earth, and the lies he told himself would be hidden forever as long as he swallowed them whole and pushed them down deep, as one often did in his profession. But now dead he understood he underestimated the power of his unconscious, that deep and powerful abyss of darkness that erupts like a volcano that cannot be controlled when we die, the abyss that shows us ourselves as we truly are and all the secrets we dared not speak while alive.
[“Don’t ye know ye are gods,” Christ said, in a warning mostly, not to be confused as a compliment to us at all like many might think.]
“You are dealt a deck of cards and you play your own hand,” she said.
“Yes, but when someone else is playing your hand, whose hand is it”? mother replied.
Upon further reflection now, and so young, she first saw mother’s anguish that time she got into the car just to watch her honk the horn. Mother’d take the wheel first, put her foot on the gas, and then thrust her palm with full force in the center and hold on, and the horn was loud and long and could be heard for miles around. Up and down hills they rode together in the green station wagon beyond the speed limit, down straight roads too and swerving, mother frantic now and throwing her head back and forth, and then swirling it, banging it, not seeing the road, not crying either, even though her face was wet and red.
“What are you doing”? She begged her mother, shouting above the noise, and now screaming at her, feeling great fear from her and not understanding, sitting below the dashboard with only the trees appearing in view from right, then left, “Why are you blowing the horn”?
“They all know! They all know!” she yelled back, and then stuck her head out the window, shouting at the world and all the neighbors, “Here I am! Here I am!” pushing down longer and harder on the horn as they drove by the Kessler, the Macks, and Johnson houses, making sure they knew that mother knew they knew and what they have always known she knew too, because she was not stupid, no not her.
Early in life when she was a young woman, mother talked about her pregnancies and the infection, the infection that is in the blood that doctors do not see but know is there and what they delight in doing to women. No blood test will show it, she said, even though all symptoms point to it.
“Did uncle know”? her daughter asked.
“Why didn't he help you”?
Then years later she came undone, ending up in a mental hospital, but remained almost silent and suffering in lone silence. “I am a sacrifice,” she would simply say, time and time again.
“It doesn’t matter. They will get it at the Judgment,” was mother’s reply.
Her words provoked memories, like when the white Cadillac pulled up in front of the house every few months, mother would lose it in her head, emotions like the wild wind of a tornado. Her fists would pound her flesh so hard that the sound of it could be heard upstairs, the thumping that signaled uncle had arrived. As she watched from the window upstairs, when uncle neared the house still closer mother would grunt in pain downstairs. The pattern always the same: mother consumed with rage, and uncle visiting dutifully even when he knew the rage was all at him. Mother’s breathing intensifying as he got closer, her snort like a cough and yelp, and then grabbing the sides of her head in grief-stricken fashion to scream out loud before his knock could be heard at the door.
Consumed with embarrassment daughter ran from the house – out the back door - to hide in the garage until he left. Always the same thing. Why did he visit her? What was he trying to do? Just to see her as she was? Did he visit just to pour hot coals on her head? To look at her and say or do nothing, only to leave her again to suffer the memory of his face and reinforce the presence of the silent fortress he built to contain her, as though aroused by the pride it took to build it, thus aroused by her?
Awakened now for what seemed the first time, her skin felt lukewarm and damp. How long was she there on the floor, and where had her head gone? She had lost herself hoping to lose him but that was not possible. He was gone in spirit but still there. Resonances would never leave her, but could he? All she could do was lay there waiting to regain the strength she lost. She felt peace as she prayed in waiting to let go. She had to let her hate go. She had to give up her fury, and in her weakness she needed strength, so she stayed there waiting for the strength she needed only to rise again.