Death is Life-Affirming: Hibiscus Haiku

Death is life-affirming.

Family gathers ’round when a loved one dies, sharing memories and telling stories, all a reminder both of the value of the life of the lost one and the interconnectedness of those who remain. We experienced this at Glover Gardens recently when my Dad died, rejoicing in the togetherness of family and friends even while we mourned together. In addition to their continual prayers and love, my cousin’s wife brought a gift to our informal celebration of Dad’s life, a live and blooming hibiscus, with a heartfelt haiku.

your much-beloved dad
like this hibiscus flower
blossomed love and life

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Lucy, my Aunt-Mom and Dad’s widow, took this beautiful picture

I’ve posted before about how we love love love both hibiscus and haiku here at Glover Gardens; this gift was as appropriate and welcome as a hug to smooth a hardship – and so life-affirming! A quick little poem, at the second grade level (I couldn’t resist):

I have a wonderful cousin
who has a wonderful wife.
She wrote a hibiscus haiku
to celebrate Dad’s life.

 

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A white Texas Star hibiscus, blooming for the first time on Dad’s death day

Find more about Dad here.

And here’s a tour through our hibiscus flowers (also shared in this previous post).

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Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

~ with help from Marsha (haiku) and Lucy (cover picture) and Dad (inspiration) ~

you, amazing you / footprints on our heart-sands (another poem for Dad from a grateful daughter)

IMG_0151you

were an amazing father

you taught me to

believe

in myself

in God in love

in family in miracles

in old movies on a rainy afternoon

in grilled cheese sandwiches

you

got up with us kids

every day before school

making our breakfast

telling tall tales

“killing the biscuits” with the butter knife

you

taught us to love simple things

the sea sky and seagulls

the wind in our sails

July 4 fireworks and hot dogs at the beach

you

were an amazing husband

steadfast when

Mom was sick for decades

you

never complained

or made it about

you

or “took time off”

or felt sorry for yourself

even when she died

you

gave your next wife

the same care and thoughtfulness

and respect

and honor

you

were an amazing grandfather

mindful and present

you

listened more than you talked

making those kids feel like special starfish

you

were an amazing friend

collecting people like seashells

keeping them always

appreciating their beauty

their uniqueness

their worn-smooth spots

you

were an amazing role model

“what would Frank do”

a testimonial from friends

about your wisdom

you

never judged never condemned

but always remained authentic

about your beliefs

accepting without endorsing if

you

couldn’t agree or understand

you

were the most consistent

person I ever knew

like waves crashing to the shore

you

gave your heart completely

the whole package

with no strings

just acceptance and love

you

will be loved and missed

forever

your footprints on our heart-sands

you

amazing

you

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your footprints on our heart-sands
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My Dad and me, Thanksgiving 2015; I still feel his arm around me

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

photos courtesy of Joie, one of the amazing granddaughters of the amazing and wonderful man, Frank

A Poem from Long Ago: “For You, Mom, On Your Brother’s Death”

My uncle Nathan, my mother’s brother, would have been 70 this month. He was only 40 when he died in 1988. Sad and shocked, I wrote this poem for my Mom at the time and it was part of his memorial service.  Just today, I found it while browsing through old files from my Dad’s computer; it is sweet that he kept the poem all these years.

For You, Mom, On Your Brother’s Death

Love, the wind, God, memories:
all intangible,
all to be touched with
thoughts and feelings,
not with fingers.

All so precious:
lives, souls, people.
Does one quit existing
when the breath is gone
     or
simply become an intangible,
touchable with thoughts,
with feelings,
like the wind?

Can we not summon Nathan
by thinking of him?
Is he not crystallized
into being in those
vignettes of him that
we remember?

Isn’t he still the same young
man who made
risqué remarks about the
pantaloons on my
doll Elizabeth,
because I remember
him that way?

Won’t I make a present
of a never-known great-uncle
Nathan
to my children by
conjuring his image,
remembering him that way?


With the wisdom of hindsight, I wish I had spent more time talking with my Mom while she was still alive about how she dealt with her brother’s death. I didn’t know then that I would also lose a younger brother while in my 40s.

Nathan and Steve 1966
Nathan holding my brother Steve; both would die young but leave lasting memories and wonderful children

Reading this (clumsy) early poem of mine again in the wake of my Dad’s death just six weeks ago, I still feel the same way about touching the intangibles, conjuring the images of the loved ones through stories and memories.  My Dad is sitting on my shoulder right now, next to my Mom.

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My Mom, her brother Nathan, and me, 1966; shocking to see that cigarette
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A cocky young Nathan while he was at Texas A&M Galveston earning his degree in Marine Transportation

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Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

12 Radical Reasons to Write Poetry

The list in the blog post referenced here is a wonderful and persuasive set of arguments in favor of writing poetry, by a self-proclaimed “shameless and impassioned advocate for the poetic voice as an integral player in an integrated life”.  Kelly Belmonte is the founder and Chief Muse of All Nine, and, in her words, “offers just a few of the best reasons to give a go at writing a poem every now and then”. Read them here: 12 Radical Reasons to Write Poetry.

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The header for the All Nine blog, the nine being a reference to the nine sister muses of Greek mythology who represent multiple domains of creativity and intelligence. 

My own “radical reason” to write (poetry, essays, blog posts) is quite simple: the words dwell within me, but have a life of their own and must be released. What’s yours?

 

memory-honey (another poem for Dad)

i’m a bee right now, landing on memory-flowers
maybe i can make them into honey
maybe that’s a way to share you

with those to come
those you never knew
those like me who want more

an endless jar of memory-honey
sitting on the pantry shelf of my heart

halcyon father-daughter days
golden and sweet
transformed into words

you were the essence of goodness and light
that’s why I want to share you

with those to come
those you never knew
those like me who want more

~ i’ll be making memory-honey for the rest of my days

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This is just another little poem from a grieving and grateful daughter – I’m sure there will be more as I process this new life in the world without him.  Thank you for reading it and allowing me to share my remarkable Dad. For more about him and the amazing childhood he and my mom made possible:

A bittersweet note here is that many of these posts include comments from my Dad.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

ten times forever (haiku for Dad)

Readers of this blog will know that my Dad died unexpectedly less than two weeks ago. Like anyone who loses a loved one, I’ll be processing this for a while. Not in a maudlin or “poor-pitiful-me” way; its just that my world has changed forever. Aside from sadness and nostalgia, my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude for the gift of having a wonderful Dad for so many years, one who loved me (and so many others) with his whole heart. And so, a haiku:

joy-sorrow feelings
how long will i love-miss you?
ten times forever

 

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Enjoying each other’s company at a party in 2007

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook