Oliver Zane Emerson


Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

— W. S. Merwin

Living Presence

“If you can bring nothing to this place but your carcass, keep out.” William Carlos Williams The poet William Carlos Williams ends his great poem, Dedication for a Plot of Ground, with these strong and humorous lines. The poem is written for his grandmother and chronicles her life and hides from none of her struggles. … Continue reading Living Presence

Angry Grief

When my wife came to bed last night she told me that Grand Rapids (Michigan) was experiencing a riot. I live in West Michigan. We don’t do riots. Even our protests are polite. But last night police cars were burned, the art museum had its windows smashed, and businesses were looted. This is not just … Continue reading Angry Grief

Memorial Day

Not too long ago, my wife of 34 years who knows me pretty well said, “I never knew how patriotic you are.” I guess in this fragmented society of red and blue states, being patriotic sends more of a confusing political message than intended. Growing up I had, by request, red-white-and-blue wallpaper with stars on … Continue reading Memorial Day

Seven Years Ago

Seven years ago today my youngest child, Oliver, died. He was six years old, which means he has been dead longer than he was alive. I could say that more politely, but that is the reality. And then again, it is not. I’m starting to wonder what it means to be dead. A lot of … Continue reading Seven Years Ago

What is Patience?

“Be joyful in hope,¬†patient in affliction,¬†faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). As we journeyed with Oliver through his cancer and death, this verse took on a new depth of meaning for me. The second part, especially, was something I worked on. I interpreted it as handling the “affliction” as calmly as possible. Being able to wait … Continue reading What is Patience?

Memento Mori

“No sooner do we begin to live in this dying body than we begin to to move ceaselessly toward death” (St. Augustine, City of God). Death has always been part of life and thus it is no surprise that people have wrestled with how our death should influence our life for centuries. Plato, in Phaedo, … Continue reading Memento Mori

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