A Prayer Upon Learning of a Death by Eli Effinger-Weintraub
[NAME], I honor the body that you were
The words you spoke
The passions that moved you
The love you shared
The life you lived.
These were not always easy to live
Or to live with
But they were always you,
And I honor you in that wholeness.
I grieve that you are no longer present in my life
I regret that I could not be with you at the end
I allow myself to hurt and to heal
Whatever form that takes
However long it takes
Whole and holy Earth, take back the body of [NAME] that was formed from you
Make new forms and lives from it
May a piece of [NAME]’s life infuse the new lives that grow from it.
May the passing forms of this life and the tears of our grief sustain the web of your creation.
I have read this poem many times and each time something new comes to me, but then again, isn’t that what poetry should do in us? I think my grandma is on my mind more lately because I have recently connected with a relative in Norway – a third cousin. That’s a story for another time.
My grandma’s life wasn’t always easy. My cantankerous grandpa must have been part gypsy; they moved often and collected addresses in Minnesota, Florida, North Carolina, Arkansas, and back to Minnesota.
I grieve that she is no longer here. We exchanged letters and occasional phone calls. I miss that communication with her. She told me once that a ‘boring life is better than a troubled life’…good to know when I think I am bored; I keep that close to my heart.
I regret that I could not be with her in the end. I was with her near the end, but not ‘the’ end. I promised my grandparents I would take care of them when they got old. I couldn’t keep that promise for many reasons. I like to think that is one of the reasons I chose to become an end of life doula.
The Earth took her body (ok, her ashes) and on that same day, seven years later, my first granddaughter was born. A new form. A new life.
Now of course, this poem wasn’t written with my grandma’s name in it. It is written for us to insert the name of our loved one. I chose to put my grandma’s name in this poem this time. She is the person I am missing these days. Although she died in 1999, I miss her in different ways through different chapters in my life. I miss her lefse when I am trying to replicate it – using a modern day recipe because I need a few solid directions. I miss her tricking me into going to bed as little one – “Susie, will you warm up my side of the bed?”. I miss her beautiful hardanger stitching. I miss visiting her in Florida and eating the fresh fruit she always fixed for breakfast. I miss playing her Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass albums on her TV/stereo console. I miss her patience while listening to my flute music. Most of all, I miss her common sense. By the way, her name is Alice, but we always called them Grandma and Grandpa Walt (his name). She became Grandma Walt… The picture below was taken years ago. Grandma Walt created these beautiful dolls with her hardanger skills.
Who do you miss right now? Will you take the time to insert their name into this poem and spend a few moments honoring their memory?