Who Sent It? The handmade postcard above featuring part of the John Lennon Wall was sent to me by swapper Philippa D (papercaper) on swap-bot. It was sent 12 years ago for a “Simply Love” postcard swap. Since the wall is always changing (as people draw and write over existing art and words), I really appreciate this little bit of what it was.
Loss and grief are inevitable parts of life. We know this, but that doesn’t make it easier to manage. In fact, the inevitable is often a source of anxiety for some. Despite how ab-so-lute-ly awful it is, grief teaches us many lessons about life, love, and ourselves. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned.
- Love is more powerful than we can ever find words for or even imagine. We continue loving long after the person is gone.
- Grief is a journey for one. Others may grieve the loss of the same person, but not the same loss. Every loss is personal and the journey to healing individual.
- There is no “getting over” a loss, but eventually the wound will heal. As with all wounds, there will be scars.
- Grief stays with us. It morphs and shape-shifts until it settles into our beings.
- Eventually, we learn to live with grief, but our hearts may never stop aching.
- The gaping, person-sized hole inside never gets filled. We miss the person for the rest of our days on earth, but mingled with the pain will be fond memories and laughter.
- It is important that we find space to express ourselves and talk about our loved ones.
- We should never apologize for grieving, even if it makes others uncomfortable.
- The Divine draws closer to us when we grieve (Psalm 34:18).
- We learn how to sit in the dark and still believe in Light.
What lessons have you learned from grief?
In honor of World Poetry Day (yesterday), the first day of spring (two days ago), and Black Women’s Appreciation Day (March 1), I am sharing a surrealistic floral postcard and three short poems. I intended to write a post for each special day, but…life.
Here you are,
Black and Woman
and in love with yourself.
You are terrifying.
They are terrified
(as they should be). —Upile Chisala
I want to think that God smiles
when a black woman
is brave enough to love herself. —Upile Chisala
“i love myself.”
—ism, nayyirah waheed
About the Image: My literary twin, Gina B, sent the postcard for International Women’s Day. She included an Audre Lorde quote and a postage stamp that features a female German poet. I have decided each part of her woman-affirming gift deserves its own post. The art here is the work of digital collage artist, Frank Moth. I don’t know his reasons for creating this piece–or any of his “Bloom” pieces–but when I first saw this image I knew I had to pair it with these fierce Black woman-affirming poems! See Moth’s Instagram page for more of his “Bloom” artwork. See the links for more work by the poets.
Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. —John 16:22
My dad passed away February 12, 2022 at 86.5 years of age, and I have been struggling to put my thoughts and feelings into words. When my own words fail, I go to poetry. Having endured so much grief, the poem that speaks to my heart in this moment is Mary Oliver’s “Heavy.”
I adapted the poem for my purposes, but you can read the original poem here.
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
I went closer,
and I did not die.
has his hand in this,
Still, I am bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,
is nowhere to be found.
Then I remembered my father:
“It’s not the weight you carry
but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it
when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I’ll go about practicing.
One day you’ll notice.
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth.
How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe
also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
to which there is no reply.
This poem speaks to me not only because of my own grief, but because as I read it, I thought about the fact that my father had a lot of hurt in his life. To look at him–to even know him–you wouldn’t see it. Every now and then, it would eke out in small ways. He’d tell us about a painful memory from his childhood, a hurt that stung all his life. He wrote in the autobiography he started about being told the word “no” so much that he did not want his wife or children to hear that word. Despite the pain and disappointment he endured, my father found his way to joy. And his very soul was steeped in an infectious joy.
He never forgot those painful moments from his childhood. I believe he carried them with him his whole life, but “it’s not the weight [he] carried, but how [he] carried it, how [he] embraced it, balanced it, carried it when [he] could not, would not put it down.”
He parlayed all of that weight into beautiful gifts for his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and for generations to come.
They’re found in the music he gave us, the Sunday morning listening to everything from jazz to blues to ballads and everything in between that makes much of the stuff churned out nowadays intolerable.
The gifts are in the lessons about grit and hard work and striving for excellence, about making no excuses and owning our mistakes and allowing them to prod us toward growth.
The gifts are in the sometimes uninvited–a little too straightforward–but sound counsel that pushed us to do right and be better.
They’re found in the celebration of the good that life offers in all its forms, in the beauty of a deep, abiding appreciation for life and grace and a recognition that everything we have is gift and grace.
The gifts are in the joy in spite of circumstances.
The gifts are in his many unanswered questions about God and eternity, questions for which he left us to find the answers.
The gifts are found in the love with an answer, the way he loved and did life with our mother, a love not superficially crafted for social media, but one with deep roots and the abiding presence of the Divine. That autobiography I mentioned earlier, doesn’t start with “I was born.” It starts with “I began to live when I married my wife.” While I am incredibly grateful for my father’s joy, I know the love for our mom is the greatest gift he could have given his children. That love–that love with an answer–has made all the difference.
Sleep well, Daddy. We look forward to the “loud command, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God” that will reunite us for eternity.
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. –I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Written 2.22.22 for my father’s memorial service. Shared here for those who have asked for copies.
I “found” the poem I’m sharing today “by chance” on novelist Alison McGhee’s blog. The poem, by 14th century Persian poet, Hafiz, reminded me of the conversation a friend and I had a few days ago about the narrow view of God as a docile, old man in the sky. Many of us “speak sweetly” of the gentle “Lamb of God,” but want to deal as little as possible with the Lion of Judah. We certainly don’t want to deal with a God who tires of human foolishness and foibles to the point that He might consider “drop-kicking” us.
Tired of Speaking Sweetly
Hafiz (Translation by Daniel Ladinsky)
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.
Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth
That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,
Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.
God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.
Thankfully, despite how impossible we can be, God does love us enough not to harm us. I’m grateful–though He might shake his head or “fist” at me sometimes–His deep love for me and His mercy and grace override any inclination to drop-kick me. This doesn’t mean I get a pass or that He doesn’t get tough with me. He does. But His ways are not our ways. Again…thankfully.
Interesting Fact: Bobby Bare recorded a song in 1976 entitled “Drop Kick Me, Jesus.” Go figure.
A Valentine (1906)
Priscilla Jane Thompson
Out of the depths of a heart of love,
Out of the birth-place of sighs,
Freighted with hope and freighted with fear,
My all in a valentine, hies.
Oh, frail little missive
Of delicate texture,
Speed thee, on thy journey,
And give her a lecture!
Fathom her heart, that seems to me, cold,
Trouble her bosom, as mine,
Let it be mutual, this that I crave,
Her ‘yes’ for a valentine.
Oh, frail little missive,
In coy Cupid’s keeping,
Oh! speed back a message,
To set my pulse leaping.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
The kind of Shalom we’re trying to give to people around us requires us to take an active interest in their physical and spiritual well-being. –Lisa Jo-Baker, Never Unfriended
Welcome to Sunflower Month on Pics and Posts!
Since I’m usually a bit overwhelmed with “the beginning of the semester” and unfinished business from the previous semester, I considered taking a blog break this month to focus on all the getting-things-going-in-January stuff. Then, I remembered, my blog is a happy place, and I need it to escape the madness whenever I can.
So here I am escaping for a moment. I won’t post every day (obviously), but with the exception of the two #ThursdayTreeLove posts, I will share lots of sunflower love this month. Why? Because, as one of my friends pointed out when I questioned whether a sunflower month would be too much, “we need the bright and beautiful right now. ”
As for the gorgeous image above, it was crafted by Kim B, one of my Love Notes friends. I met her when she reached out to me as my sister Lori was nearing her last days. Kim wanted to offer hope and encouragement to both of us and she did just that. I shared her sunflower, which she “grew from a tiny seed,” on Instagram a few months ago, but it came to mind immediately when my hubby told me that instead of focusing on “one little word,” this year, his prayer is that he loves as God loves.
Can you imagine the exponential potential of his interactions with individuals he comes across? How many lives can be charged with even one encounter?
To tune in to others and offer love, unrestrained and without strings, is the best gift we can offer the world.
I am joining him in this prayer. Won’t you?
Happy New Year, Friends!
Although I said I would, I changed my mind about sharing a Neruda poem this evening. Instead, I decided to drop in with a dialogue poem by late 19th/early 20th century poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox. The dialogue speaks to this particular moment of transition. After the maddening year that’s just ended, some of us might be a little wary about our march into 2021. But the year awaits with all its gifts.
New Year: A Dialogue
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
“The night is cold, the hour is late, the world is bleak and drear;
Who is it knocking at my door?”
The New Year
“I am Good Cheer.”
“Your voice is strange; I know you not; in shadows dark I grope.
What seek you here?”
The New Year
“Friend, let me in; my name is Hope.”
“And mine is Failure; you but mock the life you seek to bless. Pass on.”
The New Year
“Nay, open wide the door; I am Success.”
“But I am ill and spent with pain; too late has come your wealth. I cannot use it.”
The New Year
“Listen, friend; I am Good Health.”
“Now, wide I fling my door. Come in, and your fair statements prove.”
The New Year
“But you must open, too, your heart, for I am Love.”
May you find in this year good cheer, hope, success, good health, and, of course, love.
About the image: The macro photo of a leaf with raindrops (or dew?) came from my friend, Rebecca R. She captured it during an autumn walk and sent it with best wishes for the new year.
Real love dares you to the really dangerous: die in the diminutive. Be broken and given in the small, the moments so small no one may applaud at all. Pour out your life in laundry room and over toilets and tubs, and pour out life on the back streets, in the back of the room, back behind the big lights. Pour out your life in the small moments–because its only these moments that add up to the monumental. The only way to live a truly remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you, but to leave noticeable marks everywhere you go. The best love could be a broken, boring love–letting your heart be bore into by another heart, one small act of love at a time. –Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Love each other with a warm love
that comes from the heart.
1 Peter 1:22, NET
Can you imagine the amazing place this world would be if every one of us practiced this one simple principle and respected each other’s humanity and right to exist?
About the image: The postcard was sent to me by Karen F (Michigan on swap-bot) for a scripture postcard swap.