[Jacob Wrestling the Angel: Jacob Epstein]
I recently came across an intriguing biblical phrase. Karen Blixen liked it so much that she quoted it twice in Out of Africa. It’s from the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32:26). It’s near dawn, the angel has already dislocated Jacob’s hip, but he won’t let go until he receives a blessing:
I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
I’m not a Christian and I’m certainly not a biblical scholar. But I am fascinated by the resonance of the magisterial language of the King James Version, and by the deep truth – secular as well as sacred – that those words convey about our need for a blessing in order to let go.
Blixen writes poignantly about saying farewell to her farm in Kenya; how she took her leave of the many people, places, and animals that she loved, in a deeply considered and unhurried way. She did not shy away from the exquisite bitter-sweetness of each act of separation.
In a moving passage she tells of putting Rouge, her favourite horse, on the train to his new home in Naivasha: “I stood in the van and felt, for the last time, his silky muzzle against my hands and face. I will not let thee go, Rouge, except thou bless me.” I felt something similar, when I packed up Chris’s paintings, art books, paints and art materials earlier this week, on Easter Monday.
It took me 5 hours to sort through everything, decide what few bits and pieces I would keep, and to fit the rest into the camper van so I could take it to Chris’s niece in Manchester. I knew that Chris had wanted Rosie to have her art stuff and I was glad to honour her intention, though it was painful to see the drawers and bookshelves emptied of so many familiar artifacts.
In the end, Rosie’s excited glee on receiving the materials, and knowing that she would use them for her own inspired artwork, became the blessing that made it possible for me to let them go with a joyful heart.
Finding new homes for Chris’s clothes, books, pictures, teddy bears, and other precious things; taking her ashes to places she loved; renovating and re-arranging Folly Cottage; writing a memoir, poems and these blogs. They are all heartfelt gestures of farewell to my darling girl.
Thou hast blessed me and I let thee go.
You’re right Geoff – Rosie was chuffed to have dear Chris’s art materials. They will be well looked after. Thanks.