Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
— W. S. Merwin
What does he want for his birthday?Does he want friends to come over?What kind of cake does he like?Is he still be a close friend to his cousin Nicholas?How often does he walk over to visit big brother Gray and his wife, Kim?Is he following Dov’s advice in shoes and skateboarding?Does he look forward to … Continue reading Oliver would be 14 years old today
“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
Recently I heard a newscaster describe George Floyd as “a man we only know in death.” It is one of those obvious statements which should cause us to pause and consider how we define those who die. The same can be said for many of the people who lived “normal” lives but whose death gives … Continue reading We Only Know Them in Death
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
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 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
In today’s gospel reading for the Catholic Church, we hear about the two disciples of Jesus on their way to Emmaus when they meet a stranger, just days after Jesus’ crucifixion. They explain to him what happened to Jesus and the stranger then proceeds to interpret scripture for them that shows why the Messiah had … Continue reading Needed: An Active Faith for Grieving
“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?
For those grieving the loss of a loved one, there is a chasm separating focusing on the death of someone and celebrating their life. Death is not something we seek and it is rarely pretty. For some it is proceeded by a harrowing death rattle, which is easily explained scientifically, but haunts those who hear … Continue reading The Dead Cannot be Defined by Their Death
“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