All Souls Pass

Most of January I’ve spent distracting myself from my grief. I’ve binge watched shows, including nearly seven seasons of SG1 and both seasons of The Mandalorian. I’ve watched endless Hallmark Christmas movies. I’ve rewatched old favorites, like Sleeping Beauty, Prince Caspian, The Rocketeer and the entire Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings extended edition movie trilogy. Not all at once. I spread them out over three weekends, ending with Return of the King Monday afternoon, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the last office closed holiday until Memorial Day.

I spent the last two years re-reading The Lord of the Rings concurrently with the corresponding volumes of The History of the Lord of the Rings also known as The History of Middle-earth (volumes six through nine). So my head and memory are fresh with respect for what Tolkien got published and also his original imaginings, vision and what you might call deleted scenes as edited by his son, Christopher, who also passed away one year ago on January 16th.

While I appreciate what Peter Jackson managed to produce, much of it is jarring to someone who knows and holds dear Tolkien’s published masterpiece. Dialogue and sometimes thoughts are transplanted into completely different characters. But I digress. Jackson’s adaptation is the best we have at this time and despite it’s flaws, it still provides a window, however slightly skewed, into Tolkien’s Legendarium. I just hope it leads people to the font of Tolkien’s epic fantasy.

Just as I was starting the movie, though, I had a visit from the TSoKC Special Eagle Delivery Service. I received a large care package from my close friends in the Withywindle Smial via our illustrious leader, full of hobbitish victuals and elvish enchantments to further distract me. A hearty ‘thank you’ will be expressed Friday evening during our regular monthly gathering.

I returned to watching Return of the King, but had to take a break when I found myself dozing off at the two hour mark, just as thing were getting interesting around Minas Tirith. I needed to return some merchandise and went in search of a French coffee press (since I have no coffee maker because I mostly drink black teas). Disappointingly two stores had no presses. Although not my first shopping choice, I knew that Starbucks would have a press so I bought one there. When I got home and was able to read the instructions (which were buried inside the press and not readily available at the shop), I learned I cannot use this press with anything but course ground coffee. So no afternoon coffee to wake me up for the second half of Return of the King.

I confess I fast forwarded through most of the Frodo-Sam-Gollum scenes, at least until close to the end when everything is converging. Those scenes are difficult enough to read and doubly hard to watch. Having very recently re-read them, I felt no need to drag my already bruised heart through that much darkness and despair.

Terry (Aug 2015)
Terry on our trip to visit Rachelle and Nic (Seattle, WA in Aug 2015)

The key scenes that made me weep and resonated with my own grief over the passing of my husband:

During the Seige of Gondor, when a rock troll is pounding at one of the inner gates of Minas Tirith, Pippin and Gandalf discuss death and Gandalf replies with one of those transplanted lines which Sam actually thinks to himself (and references the much maligned Tom Bombadil):

And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.

Chapter 9 “Grey Havens”, Book Six, The Lord of the Rings

I could not help myself. I prayed fervently that my husband beheld similar white shores and a far green country as he passed beyond our earthly realm.

Later, after Eowyn and Merry vanquish the Witch-King of Angmar, Theoden tells Eowyn ‘My body is broken. You have to let me go.’ I could hardly bear to watch the scene having so recently heard similar statements from my dying husband during the darkest hours before the dawn in his hospital room. It was my own daughter, Rachelle, who held the hand of his broken body as he left us peacefully.

‘My body is broken. I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed. . . . And I would send word to Eowyn. She, she would not have me leave her, and now I shall not see her again, dearer than daughter.’

Theoden to Merry, Chapter 6 “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields”, Book Five, The Lord of the Rings

The final weep inducing scenes involve Frodo and Sam, who is the true hero of this tale. They’ve reached the slopes of Mount Doom but Frodo is spent and haunted by the Lidless Eye while awake. Sam reminds Frodo of the Shire, but even mention of barley plantings and fresh strawberries with cream cannot reach Frodo now. Sam proclaims “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.” I have no quibbles with this scene as it closely matches and concisely adapts the same scene from Chapter 3 “Mount Doom” in Book Six of The Lord of the Rings. Sean Astin will forever be my one and only Samwise Gamgee.

Well, not quite the final weeping session. Just like I always read the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings (and they never fail to bring tears to my eyes on their own merits), I always watch the credits, when Annie Lennox sings Into the West. I found the second verse and the outro especially poignant and heart rending yesterday afternoon.

Terry and Rachelle holding hands and walking a trail at Mt. Rainier National Park.  Derek trailblazing ahead.
Derek, Rachelle and Terry walking a trail at Mt. Rainier National Park (Aug 2015)

[Verse 1]
Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You have come to journey’s end
Sleep now
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across the distant shore
Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away
Safe in my arms
You’re only sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home

[Verse 2]
And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass
Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time
Don’t say we have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again
And you’ll be here in my arms
Just sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home

And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the West

Lyrics to Into the West

Terry (Nov 2016)

Terry, I miss you so much. Love always, Jon

One thought on “All Souls Pass”

  1. Yes, Sean Austin was more Sam than whatshisname was Frodo.
    At my age, the scenes of death are more poignant to me than they were twenty years ago. When I read, the age of the author is obvious. Young folks, even those who have suffered lose, don’t seem to have a grip on dying. Not that any of us do, but we who are older understand it’s a big deal. Especially for one who, as they used to say, was taken before his time.
    Terry was such a one.

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