Poetry from the Corner

I write poems from time to time. I’m not a poet. I don’t have the soul of a poet or the intuition to feel and relay “universal suffering” in my words.

Sometimes, though, I can make rhyme and rhythm into something relatively relateable.

You might guess from recent posts, that I’m struggling with some hard things. Maybe this poem will give you a glimpse through the tinted windows of my soul.

Once upon a Teardrop

Once upon a teardrop
A heart began to weep
Aching wounds so deep
Blood did spill and seep

Once upon a heartbreak
Blackness swarmed like bees
Hope whacked at the knees
Heaven ignored the pleas

Once upon a deathbed
Angels refused to sing
Acidic breath did sting
Hells bells pealed sharp a ring

Once upon an autumn
Leaves refused to turn
Fiery beauty spurn
Smoking furies burn

Once upon a teardrop
A broken heart bled
Joy and truth both fled
Faith in God was dead

I felt my heart stop
Once upon a teardrop

What do you think? Does this short verse bring any images to mind for you? Feel free to add your own stanza in the comments.

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A Cherished Journal

Life is never appreciated quite so much as when Death comes calling. The same is true of this journal chosen for the 2016 Cherished Blogfest.

As a writer, I have stacks of journals. Finely bound books with gorgeous illustrations…

Journals

Spiral notebooks covered in scrawling ink and lead…

Spiral Notebooks

And then there’s the Cherished Journal.

Cherished Journal

After I wrote in in the other night, I realized there were only five empty pages waiting to be filled.

Tears puddled. I flipped to the first page, lovingly inscribed by my mother. She purchased it during a ladies’ retreat with a group of women from church.

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Years from now, when I’ve forgotten what the lessons were about that October in Seaside, Oregon, this note from my mom will crackle like a fire in my heart.

Because three short months after she wrote those words, my mom graduated from this earthly plain. Now she waits in Heaven to impart more encouraging words – someday – when I have moved past this life.

This made me think, not for the first time, how neglectful we are of the people in our lives. People we love tend to see the worst from us. We pick up the phone and vent at them when a day turns mean.

How many times have I snapped at my husband because something or someone else hurt or irritated me? Too many to recount. And the thought shames me.

On the other hand, how often have I hugged him and told him what he means to me? Since the day my mother broke the earthly chains, this has happened more frequently.

But less so the further from that painful goodbye I travel.

Do I really need someone dear to me to depart in order to cherish those who remain?

It chills me to think this has become the way of things in my world. Casual words and flippant teasing dominates the conversation. What about meaningful remarks of sincere appreciation?

I hold the cherished journal in my trembling hands. It blurs. The dry ink can’t be touched by my teardrops.

Open Journal

But can my heart? Will I finally learn the lesson this simple gift – now filled with my own thoughts and plans – tries to teach me?

Don’t wait for Death to show you what is truly cherished.

Live today with words and deeds that cherish all those whose presence in your world is a greater gift than any book or heirloom or brightly wrapped parcel.

Who will you cherish today?

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Funeral, Memorial Service or Something Else

quote-about-grief1“I don’t want a funeral. Don’t cry when I’m dead. Have a party and laugh about my stupidity, hilarity and ingenuity.”

My husband looks at me like I’m crazy. As much as I cry when a loved one passes, he thinks it’s the epitome of hypocrisy that I expect people to laugh after my own departure from life on earth.

I’m all over Ecclesiastes chapter three and think that the time to weep and mourn for me can happen in a dark room somewhere. When they hold my service, I want laughter (and for me laughter often involves tears).

In that case, I don’t think a funeral or memorial service will be appropriate for me. After planning a memorial service for my mother, I had no expectation to laugh during the service. Laughter at a funeral would be even more blasphemous, right?

These days, people hold a service after a loved one passes and call it “a celebration of life.” That sounds more my style. Of course, in the throes of recent loss, I find myself choked up and ruining my makeup at these events, too.

Some people have the knack for enticing people at the reception after such a service to share an anecdote. Others join in. Soon, people are smiling and laughing. Reminiscing is the healthiest way to mourn a loss.

Was I ready for this when my mother was in her hospital bed dying? Not really. The evening I witnessed her last breath, could I think of a funny story to share? Nope. As I sat across from the funeral director, did I believe cracking a joke would lighten the mood? Negatory.

These events aren’t the appropriate time and place for cutting up. Sometimes people share anecdotes at the end of an organized service that bring a smile or a titter of laughter. That’s okay. Those who feel it’s appropriate to join in will do so; others will cry and grumble.

I prefer a small gathering of family and close friends in a neutral location – after the reception perhaps. Get the stories flowing. “Remember when Mom piled ten kids into that VW bug?” “Picking up rocks from the garden plot was torture, but Mom sure grew the best green beans and peas afterwards.”

This is the type of casual get-together that I’m talking about when I tell my husband I don’t want people blubbering over my death (after all, I’ll be rejoicing in the presence of my Lord and Savior; what’s sad about that?). Of course people will cry (some will be tears of joy) when I’m dead. My place in their lives will be empty.

Image courtesy of babble.com
Image courtesy of babble.com

We don’t cry for the dead person. We weep for ourselves. Our loss is their gain. Grief isn’t an indulgence; it’s a necessary step in resuming our life – now changed in the absence of a vital player.

How would you like to be remembered when you’re gone? Have you ever been in a funeral-type service where the air crackled with joy rather than grief? If so, why was that the case?

Embarrassment: An Effective Teacher

Some people have embarrassing moments.  I tend to bypass those and move straight for the humiliating.  As an example, imagine breaking down into tears in the middle of teaching a classroom full of teenagers. Embarrassment? I think even humiliation is a kind euphemism.
The first time it happened to me was my first year as an instructional assistant.  The teacher assigned me three reading groups, each reading a different novel aloud and then discussing it together.  Everything seemed fine until I saw the title of one of the books: Where the Red Fern Grows.
“I can’t read this book,” I tell her.
“What?”
“I can’t read this book.” Repetition is often the key to understanding.  For emphasis, I shake the book at her.
“Why not?”
“The dogs die.”
Blank, non-comprehending eyes stare back at me.  What part of “I can’t read aloud a book in which dogs die” is so difficult to understand?
With a heavy sigh, I admit with unapologetic sharpness, “I cry every time.”
She nods.  “I know.  It’s sad.”
That’s it? It’s sad? I think heart-rending, painful and guaranteed to induce tears is more accurate.  My stunned disbelief must be apparent because she asks, “Would you like to take a different group?”
“What are the other books?”
She gestures to the stacks of novels on the round table behind her.  I step around her to peruse the other titles.  The Outsiders featuring gang wars and a boy who burns in a church.  Not really any more appealing.  Next to that is a stack of red paperbacks:  Number the Stars about the Nazi occupation of Denmark.  Not a very exciting story, but at least it has a semi-happy ending.  The final book is The Bridge to Terabithia.  I have recently read this since she hinted that it would be one of the novels we were using.  Do I think reading about a best friend dying will be more palatable than the dead dogs?
“I guess I’ll stay with this,” I tell her.  As unappealing as the thought is, I comfort myself with the fact that it will be weeks before we get to the sad part of the book.  I’m pretty sure I feel a sick day coming.
Instead, the day we read about the coon hunt gone awry is such a summery spring afternoon that we sit outside beneath the tall evergreen trees.  Wind ruffles the pages.  The fresh, pine-scented air brings the reality of the woods at night clearly to mind.  I try to cover up my emotions, but there’s just something about a clot of mucus in the throat that makes speaking impossible.
Three young teenagers are aghast, practically gaping while my tears threaten, unwilling to be quelled.  Understatement:  I feel mortified.  However, their attention has never been so completely focused on my face or words.
“Are you crying?” one girl asks.
Gulping down the infernal throat-frog, I admit, “This part is so sad.  It always makes me cry.”
“I hate when animals die.”
“I cried when we had to put my dog to sleep last fall.”
Who knew overly dramatic, hormone-driven teenagers could be compassionate and empathetic?
The next time, it wasn’t quite as horrifying.  Reading one-to-one with a student decreased the audience.  The scene described a heart-to-heart talk between a misunderstood daughter and her recently remarried dad about the mother’s passing. A few tears fell.
“Are you crying?” my student asked, turning to stare at my face with wide eyes.
“It’s really sad,” I choke out.
Afterward, she tells the whole class how sad her book is and she’s not sure if she likes it anymore.  When she whispers to her friends a few moments later, is she telling them how weird it was when Mrs. Hughson started crying? I refuse to feel ashamed.  My tears prove that effectively written prose can evoke deep emotions.
Today, however, was a completely different ball game in front of the entire class.  How I managed to read about the notification from the army of the young soldier’s death without even batting an eye, I’ll never know.  Stymied at last, the clog begins to form while reading the reflection on the unimpeachable character of the recently departed.  Why is it that “Only the Good Die Young”?
Of course, I must appear strong, so I attempt to struggle through it.  I swallow, blink rapidly and even try to clear my throat.  I look toward my feet so I won’t see 24 eyes staring at me expectantly.  Waiting to hear the rest of the story? Or waiting to see me break down and sob like an over-emotional, pre-menopausal, middle-aged woman?
It’s no use.  I can’t go on.  The teacher who I assist steps in and I have to step out.  Red-faced and red-eyed, my emotions ooze from every pore.  One Kleenex, and then another, before I’m also red-nosed.  What is wrong with me? Did I break down this way when I read the book at home a few weeks ago? Maybe.  It seems the tears have fogged my memory banks.
When I return, the classroom atmosphere is akin to a morgue.  All eyes once focused on the teacher, turn to follow my progress across the back of the room.  I take a seat next to one of the boys.  He’s writing, or doodling, but he looks up.  His eyes are wide, his lips slightly parted, a question obvious in his eyes, “Are you okay?”
“They were as good as gold after you left,” Mrs. Tayler tells me later.
We’re talking about the last period of the day. On any normal day, this group could enter a chat marathon. Today, every one of them understood the seriousness of a single moment.
Just call me Confucius, I guess. I’ve created a new proverb: A teacher’s embarrassment is a great teacher.