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
I’ve posted before about how we lovelove loveboth 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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:
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
A friend of mine shared a poem he wrote on Facebook that speaks volumes in its simplicity. I’m sharing it here with his permission. I was itching to give it a title, and then realized that part of its beauty is that it nameless. It just is – which is kind of the point.
I sit and ponder Searching for answers In a world full of wonder
Days come and go Everything changes Will we ever know
Days of joy and sadness Peace and turmoil Brilliant ones and those of darkness
How I miss some days Thankful some are past Nothing ever lasts
Cool summer breezes Autumn chill Gales of winter Yet I cannot feel
Dusk approaches Without fail Hide if you must To no avail
Prepare for the dark And wait for the light For surely it’s coming Your soul will take flight
To sit and ponder And search for answers Robs you of joy In this world full of wonder
The past is sadness Yet it has gone The future brings worries It steals our song
Live for today It is our present It’s where we are
It’s where we have been It’s where we are going Live for now And welcome not knowing
Thank you, Casey Sullivan, for voicing these feelings about the embracing the now in a world full of wonder.
As I was preparing this post, I saw a photo my son posted of a friend on Instagram, which he took just before finals week at the end of their freshman year at the University of Texas. It is such a perfect match for Casey’s poem. Looking at the picture, I can almost feel my son and his friend enjoying and absorbing the now of the near-dusk at Lake Travis in Austin, TX.
Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook (except the poem and photo)
i’ll never forget my days by the water
a childhood so perfect
it almost hurts to remember
seashells and crab boils, best friends and cousins
a brother so close
he was almost my double
sunburns and skinned knees and sand in our eyes
fishing and sandcastles
huge wide-open skies
potluck parties where parents talked politics
where active listening happened
and no one left mad
“beach bum” friends of my parents, ex-soldiers
recovering from war
found peace in the waves
bonfires, fireworks, beach birthdays and family
acceptance and love as
abundant as sunshine
i’ll always remember
those days by the water
I stumbled on the concept of “100 Word Wednesday” in a blog called Bikurgurl and decided to participate this week, Week 15 of the challenge. The prompt was this beautiful lighthouse, and the rules are simple: write something 100 words long, use this image or another of your choosing, and link back to the original blog. The lighthouse made me think of my childhood living by the water on a very different kind of shore on the Bolivar Peninsula in Southeast Texas.
This rough little poem came spilling out of me as I thought of those halcyon sand-ridden childhood days and so many memories flooded in. Everything seemed so safe, so permanent, so lively-lovely in our tiny town of 600, Gilchrist, Texas. My brother and I went to the beach almost every day, even in the winter. My aunt and uncle moved just down the street from us, and our cousins became more like brothers. Beach birthday parties and fireworks spawned grass-fires and the scruffy men of the volunteer fire seemed delighted to be called out. My mother made mirrors rimmed with sea shells and sold them at a local art gallery.
My parents, while definitely not hippies, had escaped the mind-numbing sameness and materialism they found in suburban life for the quirky, slower and sometimes downright backward way of life on the Bolivar Peninsula. I didn’t realize at the time that the larger world was present, even there. Mom and Dad hosted election parties and invited all kinds of folks from both sides of the political aisle, and taped the lively but respectful conversations to send to my uncle, who worked for Hamilton Beach in Africa and was on a plane that was hijacked on his way home (he survived). A young man who was AWOL from the Army climbed up our stairs turned himself in to my Dad on our deck one Saturday morning while we were watching cartoons. “Beach bums” staying in a cabin a few doors down from us turned out to be Vietnam vets, confused and weary guys trying to patch up their lives and come to terms with their experiences. They were kind to an awkward tween-age girl; they paid me a few dollars to embroider peaceful sayings and seagulls on their frayed bellbottoms. They remained friends with my parents long after they all left the beach for more stability inland. Hurricane Ike took away the entire town in 2008.
So many more memories and stories, but this was supposed to be a post for 100 Word Wednesday. So I’ll leave you with some links with related stories and a few pictures.