In my life, I’ve observed several ways in which people grieve. Some mourn their parents by becoming them before they die. A sort of understudy, or dress rehearsal, that prepares them for the transition.
Some mourn them by taking on their habits and personalities after they disappear. A sort of preservation and transfer of spirit.
Others mourn through stages of grief, rather like climbing a terraced garden for many, many years. What looks like a walking meditation of stair-climbing and mezzanine pauses.
For me, I mourn my parents by thinking of what I want to gain from them. Qualities that I want to be gifted from each to push me forward on my own private path.
I’ve written a poem of remembrance for my mother and for my father. Each is a realization that came after they vanished from the physical world. Together they are pleas of love that I want to swallow as I make my way alone.
in white lace tapered like an inverted art nouveau
its open-blossomed lip spilling out
around you in a pleated puddle
on your mother’s emerald lawn.
in a delicate needle-lace veil
rippling long, long down your back.
Your short chic coal-black hair
with just a hint of sassy.
Your lips like a ruby parting
as you smiled a keyboard of ivory.
All hope and love were stitched
into that exquisitely intricate dress
the way you held your slender body
and faced the camera straight on
No doubt. No hesitation.
That would come later.
But on that hot afternoon in August
you were extraordinarily confident
in your beauty
and your call to duty as a post-war wife.
Later I would dearly crave the structure of your grace
for my own moment of marriage.
Your awkward introverted little girl
started early to practice.
My North Star
Until your light went out
I never knew how brightly you lit my way.
Until your needle stood still
I never called you my compass.
Wherever I’ve lived
I’ve watched the night sky.
Before crawling into bed
I search for the North Star.
Instead of prayers
I hold my gaze on that dogged, unwavering star.
I never knew I was searching for you each time –
to get me through the night and its following day.
You were my constancy
though separated by thousands of miles
Just knowing that you were in the world –
in the world standing still and simply being my Dad
Gave me safety in chaos.
Now I can feel the earth tremble.