Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Grief

Messenger | Mary Oliver

This is the opening poem in Mary Oliver’s slim volume, Thirst. The volume is dedicated to her partner of many years, Molly Malone Cook, who died in 2005. My comments follow.

Messenger

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Death stares us in the face daily. Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, raging forest fires, climate change and more bring it home.

No matter which political and/or religious side you’re on, we live in the world of 2020, not 2019. As I see it, we’re in a national and international valley of death. Some self-inflicted; some visited on us unawares.

Given these realities, what are we now to do?

In the midst of her valley of death, Mary Oliver seeks to clarify her work. Yes, she grieves the loss of her partner. In addition, she wants to know why she’s still alive, and what the meaning of her life is now.

Though I still have my partner, this is my question as well. What am I called to do and say right now, in this world of Covid-19 et al? Not in a drab and dreary way, but in a way that conveys my love for this world, focuses on what matters, remains open to the miracle of joy, overflows with gratitude, and proclaims “how it is that we live forever.” Not for ourselves alone, but for this world starving for love and for life.

We matter, singly and together. No matter how defeated or discouraged we feel.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 October 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com

The Unreality Show

The Unreality Show
Continues unscripted
Relentless and determined
One labored breath at a time
Inhaled then exhaled
Wincing and fidgeting
Drifting and struggling
To keep it all together
As things fall apart

Mr. Trump returned to the White House. Not quietly in the middle of the night, but with a show of defiance that reveals his weaknesses. All caught on camera and in tweets to the world. It seems he decided he had to get Covid-19 in order to demonstrate how important it is not to give in to it.

Surrender to the realities of Covid-19, and to experienced Covid-19 experts? Forget it. That might look like defeat. Yet how else is a body to heal? Much less a soul and a heart well practiced in the proud clamor of unpredictable, destructive behavior now vainly turned to his own vain advantage.

I grieve what Mr. Trump has done to and against this country. We’re not perfect, and never will be. Not by a long shot. Today, however, we’re farther than ever from what we might have become in the last four years. This is true even though the past four years have clarified fault lines we would rather not (yet must) examine.

As a follower of Jesus, I’m instructed to pray for leaders of this nation. Today my prayer joins others, beseeching God for mercy. Not by sending a special healing miracle for Mr. Trump, but by mercifully removing him from his current position of seemingly limitless power. Power Mr. Trump does not now, and has never had.

May God have mercy on us all.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 October 2020
Photo of POTUS returning to the White House found at theintercept.com

Disorder claims the winning hand

With breathless speed life takes us away
And back again to this grieving space
Where time stands still but not quite
Unfolding our own demise and deaths
One wrenching sorrow after another
Seen through the mirror of our likenesses

I thought being oldest was dangerous
When it came to death and dying
Surely I would go first followed in orderly
Succession of eldest to youngest with
Time to laugh and cry and grieve together
Built into the inevitable equation of aging

Yet disorder claims the winning hand
Changing landscapes forever through death
Or in life made more challenging through
Unforeseen clashing of genes and unexpected
Gifts of generations and the heaviness of being
Afflicted with maladies we never expected to visit

On Christmas Eve my youngest sister had a health emergency that will likely change her life, not for the better. I feel as helpless now as I did when Diane (#3) called in the late 1990s to tell us she had ALS.

As a writer, I’ve asked myself this question over and over: What is mine (and not mine) to write about?

I came up with several beginning ideas, including the theme of the poem above. That is, how strange it is to be the oldest, watching any of my younger sisters going through life-threatening health crises. In this case, Diane, who died of ALS in 2006, and now Sister #4 facing unexpected health challenges.

Thanks for visiting today. I’m slowly getting back to blogging regularly. Blessings to each of you and your families with whatever you’re facing today. Especially if it’s something about which you can do nothing but be present, supportive, and aware of what’s going on inside you.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 January 2020
Family photo taken in 1961, Savannah, Georgia

The high cost of loving

Just when I think
I’ve memorized
Every line in your face
Death rewrites it

My heart stops beating
Memory fails
A lump in its throat

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 August 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Memorize

Grief | #5

Grief wave
Waves of grief on a gorgeous spring day. Unannounced, unexpected, healing and welcome.

#5
Grief
Washes my face
With tears of sorrow

It started about 9am this morning. My heart Read the rest of this entry »

dark cold earth mound

Weeping beech in winter

cold dark earth mound

blankets newly dug grave

beech branches weep

* * *

silence

interrupted Read the rest of this entry »

Ritual of Remembrance

~ ~ ~ King’s College Choir, Cambridge, U.K.

It’s Christmas Eve, 1998.  I’m sitting in a chair in our living room, facing our stereo speakers.  Tears stream down my face.  I’m listening to the annual live broadcast Read the rest of this entry »

Can we talk? – Part 2 | Dear Diane

Diane’s opening lines in Part 1 are loaded:  “I am dying.   Sooner rather than later.”  Her entire piece is available here.  The following letter is my response to her.

Dear Diane,
Your question and opening lines get right to the point.

I’ve been thinking about our family of origin and your immediate family.  From my perspective, they’re light-years apart when it comes to talking in general.

For example, I can’t imagine us as children sitting around the kitchen or dinner table, chomping down food, elbows on the table, Read the rest of this entry »

Can we talk? – Part 1 | Dear Diane

Houston, March 1999.  A small family gathering in memory of Mother’s death in February.  Several next-generation cousins are there.  We watch a video of the memorial service for Mother.  Death is in the air and on my mind.  Not simply Mother’s death, but Diane’s and mine.  Did Diane’s ALS break Mother’s heart? Read the rest of this entry »

Wait for me, PLEASE! | Dear Diane

Houston airport, June 1998.  It’s hot, dry, breezy.  I’m exhausted after little sleep the night before, and an early morning rise to make my 7:30am flight.  Diane’s daughter picks me up at the airport.  We finally arrive at Diane’s house.   As always, my heart is pounding Read the rest of this entry »

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