There is something about the month of November that buries me in a somber mood—something that only the festive Christmas season can persuade me to abandon. Perhaps, in reflecting yesterday over yet another loss among my friends and family, it can be pinned to the fact that, over the years, November has not been the most cheerful of months for me.
I'm quite sure it goes far beyond my youthful distaste for being left behind on Thanksgiving weekend while all my more fortunate friends headed out of town to feast at large family gatherings. It may be owing to that cumulative effect of all the dreary losses sustained during that one gray month—the "no" month, November.
It was on one of my customary trips to the library as a young person that I stumbled upon a poem about the month of November. Growing up in New York—and hating the snow, incidentally—I felt the poem resonated with my childish perspective, and somehow never forgot it.
The brief ditty went something like this:
It turns out to have been written by a British poet—likely following the last November before his early passing in the spring of 1845. And that brief stanza lodged in my memory, long ago, from that children's poetry anthology was not the complete representation of Thomas Hood's poem, as I discovered recently—thanks to the magic of Google showing me this website's version of his work.No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds -
When I find myself in that dreary "no" state—prompted again yesterday with the loss of a good friend—it wakes me up to the remembrance of all those others I've lost during November. In prompting me to not only research those ancestors long past but also from my past, I think first of the one whose November exit has been the farthest removed from today. That would be my first mother in law—the one whose son's story I've already shared.
Marilyn Beverly Sowle—born 25 February, 1928, in Wisconsin to David Moore and Olive Brague Sowle—was a southern California gal whose move to the northern part of the state was to follow the love of her life. A young Marine, Earle Raymond Bean, had captured her heart, and somewhere, sometime—these genealogical details still escape me—they married and began a family of two children.
Life turned out differently for petite Marilyn. It wasn't just because she chose a husband who, at six feet six inches, towered over her—although the height itself became a telltale factor in predicting what was to befall her within about five years of their wedding. It was because her husband, apparently born with the congenital condition now called Marfan Syndrome, met an early death—not on any battlefield like the Iwo Jima conflict he had faced only a few short years before, but back in his hometown of Alameda, California.
I only met Marilyn years after that great tragedy in her life. Somehow, we all find ways to pick up and move on, even after the greatest of losses. I got to know her when I met her son. And got to know her more when the same fate that took her husband befell her son as well. Even years after her son's passing, we'd spend holidays together. And other times...like the time she discovered her cancer was back, and in order to proceed with chemo, the doctors recommended a simple procedure to insert a port. Somehow, the thought of what she faced must have been too much for her. She never awoke from that "simple" procedure.
Thoughts of Marilyn come back to remind me every November, my least favorite month of the year. Mainly, I remember being in the waiting room at the hospital with Marilyn's daughter, coping with the incredible news. But if I ever forget which morning it was, the volunteers at Find A Grave help me remember. The story is etched on a simple slab of stone set within the endless white rows of uniform reminders at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California, where, at last, Marilyn joined her husband—after all these years, in November, no longer apart.