Part 6 of “Wreckage, Wonder & Ways Through the Impossible: Writing Life’s Hard Stuff”
I write a lot of funeral poems as well as wedding, birthday, anniversary and other occasional poems. While some writers might shun such writing, I tend to lean toward the specifics that bring light to a rite of passage, pray and hope for the rhythm of the poem to carry me through, and then revise, revise, revise. When the loss is heavy, the writer can name that weight, and in doing so, hold a little or a lot of it or, at the least, support those holding the weight. Here is a poem I wrote for my beloved father-in-law’s funeral.
In the End, There Is Only Kindness
When the floor slips and the time comes,
when interventions falter, there is only kindness,
a lantern to hold at journey’s end, then hand over
so someone else can lift the light enough
to illuminate where to step next, and how.
In this kindness, there are always stories:
Telling the checker who rang up his milk twice,
don’t worry, everyone makes mistakes.
His long wait among aging magazines at the VA
so a homeless vet could get his medication.
Gravel on our walkway because he didn’t want
us slipping when we brought home the new baby.
Jokes about being old and decrepit while he
cooked everyone dinner. How he power-rocked
the babies to sleep, his heart beating through theirs.
Christmas stockings and grandchildren to wake up early,
coins to collect for each one. Oxygen in one hand,
a cane in the other so he could see a grandchild
in orchestra or band, graduation or swim meet
even when his back and memory hurt.
The dishes or long drives, reaching for the check,
and taking the time to greet the stranger eating alone.
Only kindness matters in the circle of love
he made out of this world.
In the end, there is always the beginning,
a seamless turn from here to there
even if everything is different from
the irreplaceable loss shining and aching at once,
a kind of river running alongside our lives,
or weather reminding us that
we love, were loved by a man here only
for kindness, which is not just a kind of love
but the only love there is.