Death—a topic most people want to avoid, but lately it’s in the news everyday with the coronavirus updates. Because of so much focus on death lately, I wrote “Are ‘The Dead’ Dead?” this last week and “I Want You Back! Or Do I?” six years ago—two poems very different in topic and tone!
Personally, I’ve not shied away from this topic. Possibly because I was raised in a multi-generational community and saw significant elderly people die like my grandparents and life-long babysitters. I don’t remembering viewing the bodies, just the loss.
In my early twenties, we buried my first husband’s grandfather, a dear man I loved. I remember seeing his lifeless body and a new reality hit me—that was not the man I loved. It was simply the physical shell that housed his fun-loving spirit.
Later, I had the privilege of witnessing the death of my best square dance girlfriend, Kathi Raver. The hospice nurse took the small group of friends and family gathered through the death process which fascinated me.
In 2017, I published a grief and growth memoir talking about my parents’ deaths, and readers recoiled at the title! I knew it wouldn’t be popular, but the response shocked me. Nevertheless, I had to share my process about my losses.
A natural segue for me now, surrounded by the devastating effect of the coronavirus and the mounting death count, I wrote the following poem:
Are “The Dead” Dead? July 8, 2020 In this coronavirus world, We speak So often Of the dead, The dying Death itself My thoughts linger over My dead My family My friends A thought whispered softly, “Speak their names!” Say it Repeat it Caress it As I pondered This charge, I realized I do this! I mention my dead Their names Every day In my prayers Blessings for where They are Support for me Like my personal A legion of Guardian angels Remembrance of Our connections But the thought persisted, “Say their names!” Why? When I say a name Of the deceased, They come to life! Memories flood me! I chuckle as Dad and I glide Across the wooden dance floor Doing his step No one else can imitate! I smell Mom’s sweet aroma And Giggle with her once more Sitting on the couch Shoulders touching Souls and spirits connected. I laugh out loud At Aunt Willie’s Outrageous sense-of-humor The twinkle in her eyes Mischievous and youthful I lean back and marvel At Flippo’s memory and Storytelling skills! He got me again And again And again! I hug Scott close to my heart My lifelong friend As we reminisced once more Of childhood days high school days Carefree And Powerful Say their names And they’re no longer died! They’re alive Vibrant Active In delicious memories In my heart and soul! Speak their names! Don’t Stop
In 2017, I published the following poem in A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir. After Mom’s death, I struggled with my loss, yet wondered about wanting her back here. She had polycythyemia vera which morphed into myelofibrosis, a form of leukemia, demanding repeated blood transfusion and a feeding tube.
I Want You Back! Or Do I? January 27, 2014 I stand at that mysterious wall between life and eternity and scream, "I want you back!" I pound my fists. I scream! I cry, but nothing changes. You slipped through my fingertips. I grasped. You were here one second and gone the next! Nothing I could do would hold you. Where are you now? Sitting next to Jesus and Dad— smiling youthful relaxed happy! I hope so! I am earth bound— held in place by time and my human existence! I now know more, realize there's more. There has to be! A small peephole opened into eternity at your death bed. Surprisingly, a small kernel of hope was born that day for me. Life ended here for you so quickly! Your shell of a body lay limp and lifeless in that hospital bed. I saw your last breath, but I also saw something else slight faint Relief for you! A passing A knowing that you are gone from here, but will wait for me there. In my solemn, desolate space, I will still cry, "I want you back!" But today I know that I don't want you back— I want to join you there! ©2017 Larada Horner-Miller
Death is a part of this life, but I wonder—does saying the name of a dead loved one bring them back to life, for just a moment? Are the dead really dead? Are they waiting with open arms to welcome us home?
What do you think?
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