I beg you/ do something

In my novel, The Beauty Still Left, I wrote that the murdered family members now immortalized in photographs on a wall were saying, “We forgive you our deaths.” It was projected upon the smiling grayscale faces by their loved ones who struggled with survivor’s guilt. This response seemed logical to me as I imagined what it would be like to see those photographs every day, to be reminded of the loss, and to feel irrational guilt about not sharing their fate. But it also seemed equally logical that the lost ones would have attempted to assuage the pain and sense of responsibility; their smiles would repeat those words until they were eventually believed. To love is to forgive, I think. (Ignoring what Love Story told an entire generation about apologies, to err is human.) To love is to forgive.

I did not know at the time I wrote that little scene that I was channeling a great poem and a great poet, “Prayer to the Living, To Forgive them for Being Alive” by Charlotte Delbo. The poem’s last lines:

I beg you
do something
learn a dance step
something to justify your existence
something that gives you the right
to be dressed in your skin in your body hair
learn to walk and to laugh
because it would be too senseless
after all
for so many to have died
while you live
doing nothing with your life

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