Nor All Your Tears . . .

The Moving Finger writes, and having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
     Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears wash out a Word of it.

When I started writing, I often thought of the above quatrain from the “Rubaiyat of Omar Kayyam.” It made me smile to reflect that this warning about the moving finger does not hold true when it comes to writing. We writers can — and should — rewrite and rewrite until the story turns out exactly the way we want it to turn out.

When it comes to real life and especially death, however, there is no rewriting. If the story does not turn out the way we want, too bad. And tears, as I now know from experience, will not wash away a single moment of what has already happened.

No matter how much I cry, my mate is still dead.

I worry sometimes about talking so much about my crying for him (and for me). Perhaps people will see me as weak since people often equate tears with spinelessness and immaturity. There is certainly something babyish about crying for that which one cannot have, for wailing against that which one cannot change. Sometimes I think I should be braver about this traumatic turn my life has taken, or more stoic. Still, tears are the only way I have of momentarily relieving the terrible ache of his absence. And this reason for tears is true not only for me.

I met a woman who cannot cry over the death of her husband, though she wants to. People have suggested that she cut onions to stimulate tears, but research shows that tears released by such irritations are different from those released because of emotion. Dr. William Frey, a biochemist and director of the Dry Eye and Tear Research Center in Minneapolis, says that people “may be removing, in their tears, chemicals that build up during emotional stress.” So crying is not a sign of weakness. Abstaining from crying is not a sign of bravery.

Tears are simply that — tears — though I wish with all my heart they were more, that they had the power to wash away the past and bring my mate back to me, healthy and happy.