For Some, Poetry

I tend to use poems like others use scripture. Sad, grieving, joyous, etc… there’s a poem for that. A way to beautifully and terribly describe the beautiful and terrible – sometimes at the same time – that flows through our life.

All the beauty. The hours this week writing with good strong strides, hours in a bookstore with a dear friend, countless cups of coffee, the sweet dear love of my children. On Wednesday I had a thunderstorm all to myself; grey sky, booms of thunder, rain, and my own thoughts at home. So much good. So much beauty.

All the terrible. My grandfather is dying. He is in hospice and not expected to last more than a week. I was there this morning. I’ll not describe him. This is a private grief. All I’ll say is I felt the panic bird flapping furiously in my own chest as he struggled to find his breath. I wish I could breath for him. O, to see my grandmother a knot of grief and terror; my mother weeping and scared. Phone calls from my brother. Searching for someone to play the mountain dulcimer at his funeral. Settling down to write his obituary. Constantly asking how can I help? 

Right now I’m re-reading Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things because I am at a beautiful and terrible moment in my life. In her poem “Relentless” Limón writes about her stepmother’s death. Limón and her father talked mostly about her stepmother’s breathing and the weather during those last days. When she passed it was, “… light / escapes from the heart’s room and for a moment / you believe the clock will stop itself. Absence. / You see: light escapes from a body at night / and in the morning, despite the oppressive vacancy / of her leaving’s shadow, light comes up / over the mountains and it is and it is and it is.”

Mixed in with all the grief is memory, joy, sorrow. Joy from the love that bundles my family closer and closer together. Memory rich with humor. Sorrow from thinking of absence and remembering others who have passed. Death underscores how temporary this life is.

I’m going to hug my grandfather as much as I can, help with the funeral, provide comfort when I can. I am also going to spend my time appreciating the life I have, talking about the good things that bring me joy, and pretty much hugging anyone who comes in contact with me for the next few weeks (you’ve been warned).

How does one end a post like this? With love, friends, so much love to all of you.





  1. Oh, Amanda. This is close to my own heart right now, as you know. My grandmother has been gone 15 days now. She spent the 10 prior to that in hospice in her own home. It is beautiful and terrifying. I tried to look at myself as a “death doula” — doing all I could to support her physically and emotionally as she crossed the other side. It’s weird because it is in those last days that you see so clearly that the “shell” means nothing and you can almost see/ feel the separation happening between the physical and the soul. But at the same time, you see how sacred these bodies are. How much they mean to us when we love the person. I was cleaning out her closet yesterday, and the clothes still smell like her, and it hit me like a wall of bricks. I just stood there a while with my nose in her clothes, inhale and exhale, and tears and smiles like a crazy person. Grief is like nothing else. And different for all of us. Love to you in these last days. They are sacred.

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