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.

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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

 

 

A Nameless Poem in a World Full of Wonder

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 iswhich 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.

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Photo credit to Thomas W, with thanks to the model, the beautiful and smart Desiree

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook (except the poem and photo)

my days by the water

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


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Image by Bikurgurl

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.

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In this photo, my brother was the awkward tween
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Mom on the deck; she made those macramé plant hangers
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My Dad and brother, fishing in the Intracoastal Canal, at the end of our road
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The view from the deck, some years after my childhood but before Hurricane Ike

 

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Two Cat Haiku: Made Thoughtful by Sunlight

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Sleepy by sunlight,
Fiona sits, and waits, and
contemplates her fate

“I’m a cat goddess
because I’m a calico – 
destined for greatness!”

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…and because there aren’t enough cat pictures or haiku in the world:

(It was Elise of the Kittyclysm blog who convinced me that we need more cats – check out her blog here.)

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook