A Wake on Idol Mountain: Mourning a Spouse

Sterling Eisiminger

Skip top banner

“O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again,” cried Thomas Wolfe, shaking his fist at the fog mantling the shoulders of Grandfather Mountain. Inside the family cabin, however, Hans Idol quietly pondered, “What is Eden without Eve?” Skip Eisiminger

Skip the B.S.

By Skip Eisiminger

“Hans” and Margie Idol.

“Hans” and Margie Idol.

Sterling (Skip) EisimingerCLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—8/26/2013—“O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again,” cried Thomas Wolfe, shaking his fist at the fog mantling the shoulders of Grandfather Mountain.

Inside the family cabin, however, Hans Idol quietly pondered, “What is Eden without Eve?”

Across the cabin at an open bar, Will Shakespeare noted, “Quick bright things have come to confusion,” then recommended, “Take her and cut her out in little stars, and she will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night, and pay no worship to the garish sun.”

Tending the bar, Henry Ford, objecting to Will’s “foreign” diction, said a couple divided by death is “a watch without its mainspring.”

Amid the post-mortem, Hans rose from the shadows and approached the crowd at their drinks saying, “When a spouse dies, there’s no one else’s mind to read.”

“True,” said King David, near the jukebox, “but don’t hang your harp in the willows.”

Placing an arm around Hans, Daniel Moynihan confided, “One of the first things humans learn is that sooner or later this world will break your heart.”

Somewhat more experienced with the give and take of pub banter, Dylan Thomas took issue, saying, “Yes, but after the first death, there is no other.”

Hans quietly processed their remarks, finished his beer, and offered, “It appears that mourning is a romance in reverse.”

“Yes,” said C.S. Lewis, who’d lost a love of his own, “the wife’s absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

“And even if we don’t reach the sun,” said Henry James, eyeing the fire reflected in his sherry, “we have at least gone up in a balloon.”

“Exactly,” said Bill Faulkner, reaching across the bar to pour himself another bourbon. “Men have to learn what women have always known: one can bear anything if we are wise enough to know that all you have to do with grief and trouble is just go on through them and come out on the other side.”

“Indeed,” said Ed Cummings, doffing his toboggan, “for life is not a paragraph, and death is no parenthesis.”

From the clouds, a familiar feminine voice was heard to say, “Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk as if I were beside you . . . I loved you so—t’was heaven here with you.”

Hoping to comfort Hans more than the alcohol had, Arthur Schopenhauer urged him to remember that after death, we’re just what we were before birth.

“And what was that,” asked Carl Sagan, “a gleam in our fathers’ eyes?” He said his own grief had been eased by the analogy with the cold star which continues to shed light and warmth.

Pointing to his empty beer glass, Robert Frost observed, “Nothing gold can stay.” Then added, “I can sum up in three words what I’ve learned about life, it goes on.”

“Isn’t that a contradiction?” inquired Hans.

Sensing some friction, T.H. White shifted the wake’s drift to something more constructive: “The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder in your veins, and you may miss your only love. There is only one thing for it then—to learn and make something good of your learning. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”

“Precisely!” said William Carlos Williams, “and now more than ever, My Dear Hans, so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow glazed with rain beside the white chickens.”

“A wheelbarrow of any color is good,” said Isak Dinesen, just in from Copenhagen, “but personally, I recommend the ‘salt-water cure’: tears and sweat followed by a sea cruise. When you come back, dirty your hands in the garden or read to the blind. A little retail therapy won’t hurt either.”

“Regardless of whether you’re gardening or shopping, it’s better to wear out than rust out,” said Ben Franklin, drying some glasses behind the bar.

Once more from Grandfather’s clouds came that sweet, familiar voice, “Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.”

“She’s right,” said Hans, “Margie loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

Eudora Welty, who resembled Margie, said, “Never think you’ve seen the last of anything.”

“Hans, for all your sorrows,” Francois Rabelais added from a rocker on the cabin porch, “I give you laughter.”

“And right you are, my friend,” said Hans. “And, of course, there’s everything from George Friedrich Handel to Appalachia’s own Doc Watson up there,” pointing to the shelves where his volumes of Hawthorne also stood.

As if summoned from the shadows, Nathaniel Hawthorne appeared and added, “We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death.”

“We’ll see, Nathaniel,” said Hans. “For now, let’s join Tom Wolfe and the others at the skittles table. I feel like knocking something down.”


Author’s Note: The assemblage above was built for Dr. John “Hans” L. Idol, a regular contributor to Weekly Hubris, following the death of his wife Margie on June 27, 2013 after a long illness. Some of the quotations above have been modified slightly to fit the context. I offer my sincere apologies to those authors I took liberties with and my thanks to the rest. The voices of Hans were drawn from Thomas Lynch (“romance in reverse”) and three anonymous authors. The voices of Margie were drawn from Isla Paschal Richardson and Henry Scott Holland respectively.

Sterling Eisiminger

About Sterling Eisiminger

Dr. Sterling (“Skip”) Eisiminger was born in Washington DC in 1941. The son of an Army officer, he traveled widely but often reluctantly with his family in the United States and Europe. After finishing a master’s degree at Auburn and taking a job at Clemson University in 1968, he promised himself that he would put down some deep roots. These roots now reach back through fifty years of Carolina clay. In 1974, Eisiminger received a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina, where poet James Dickey “guided” his creative dissertation. His publications include Non-Prescription Medicine (poems), The Pleasures of Language: From Acropox to Word Clay (essays), Omi and the Christmas Candles (a children’s book), and Wordspinner (word games). He is married to the former Ingrid (“Omi”) Barmwater, a native of Germany, and is the proud father of a son, Shane, a daughter, Anja, and grandfather to four grandchildren, Edgar, Sterling, Spencer, and Lena.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

2 Responses to A Wake on Idol Mountain: Mourning a Spouse

  1. Laura says:

    Very good …. :)

  2. Skip says:

    Thank you, Laura–steal from it as freely as I have.

Leave a Reply

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>