Ruth Chapman Heinold :: Hearts Can Break

The River of Strange

My mom died in 2010. She was my life. I find her writing when I search through boxes looking for winter scarves or thumb through an old cookbook of hers. Bits and pieces on scrap pieces of paper. Odds nd ends. This little bit of her came to me yesterday in a well-worn copy of Clyde Edgerton’s Ladies of the Piccadilly. Ruth was not southern. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1917, she and my dad moved us to Arkansas in 1961. She never went north again, except to visit. That makes her “southern-ish” in my eyes.

Hearts Can Break [1993]

Sometimes, when I hear the ever popular song “Achy Breaky Heart”, I am reminded of my mother. She said, “Hearts do not break, it’s a biological impossibility.” But she was wrong — hearts do break. Oh, one can hardly hear the sound. It is the sound of a butterfly’s wings being torn off. One must listen for it. I have heard that terrible sound at least twice.

As a child of eleven, I stood in a florist’s shop, holding my brother’s cold, cold hand. The families were all around, deciding on the flowers for his wife’s funeral. She had died right after giving birth to their first child. He was so cold. He was shivering slightly. That was when I heard the tiny sound — coming from him. Not a sigh, not a word, but a tearing sound and I knew what it was. Somehow I knew it was his heart breaking.

And I have heard it again…

*she stopped there. I suspect going into any further detail would have destroyed her. Was she thinking about my brother’s suicide? Her sister’s suicide? My dad’s death? She lived with us from 1997 until her death. We miss her every day. –V MacEwan