Sunday, July 7, 2013

Just away

We had Pop's memorial service on Saturday.  A handful of people came. But I know that they were the ones who mattered:  M., who made sure he got to mass every Wednesday at the nursing home and said that he was her favorite, was there; R. who we both worked with for years was there; G. who is our housekeeper and also worked for Mom and Pop was there; P. who is a trusted Al-Anon friend came and did one of the readings; and Mary who is my wife's first cousin drove from another state to attend the service and spend the afternoon with us.

My wife gave Mary the little gold mesh rosary pouch that held one of Pop's handmade rosaries.  He would sit in his chair for hours, before he was sick, and make rosaries to send to missions around the world.  I gave the remaining beads to one of the Catholic senior centers that can use them.  All of Pop's clothes have been given away.

We kept one of the crucifixes and will be giving the large one to his brother who is dying of cancer.  Dear C. is leaving on Tuesday to travel to visit two of Pop's brothers who live up North.  Brother F. has just been brought under the care of Hospice and Brother J. has a bad heart condition.  It's important that she get to see them sooner rather than later.

I liked what Monseigneur had to say about Pop growing up on a farm where family members were taken in when needed. There was plenty of food and a large house to take in relatives who were sick or having a bad time of some sort. This was the essence of the nuclear family that cared for each other.  How fortunate Pop was to grow up where family mattered so much.  Sadly, people are scattered now and the family unit doesn't seem as cohesive. I liked that Monseigneur described Pop as a man of the earth and of the sea. He was both, carrying vegetables on a truck from the farm into New York City and then joining the Navy to be on landing crafts in the Pacific during WWII.

I feel a sense of time suspended because I think about the way things used to be before they were sick.  Visits, phone calls, dinners, holidays--none of that anymore. I know that we are still grieving.  Every day will get a little easier for us.  I talked to Pop's sister about the loss of a child and her husband as well as parents and now two brothers.  She said that she thinks of them as simply being away.  And that brought to mind a poem that I recall from school by James Whitcomb Riley:
I cannot say, and will not say
that he is dead. He is just away.

With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand,
he has wandered into an unknown land

and left us dreaming how very fair
it needs must be, since he lingers there.

And you-- oh, you, who the wildest yearn
for an old-time step, and the glad return,

think of him faring on, as dear
in the love of there as the love of here.

Think of him still as the same. I say,
he is not dead-- he is just away.


  1. Lovely poem. I thnk that's how I think of my grandparents, as away.

  2. This whole "life" thing is so heavy at times. I'm hoping for the lightness of living to come soon for you and C. New chapters, new beginnings and a pause in saying goodbyes to loved ones for a while. Sending you love mi amigo.

  3. Not sure we humans can really grasp death so whatever and however we can think about it to be at peace with it is fine and good.
    I really want you to know that although this community may be "virtual" there are elements of it which are real. No, I have not brought a ham to your house, I was not there to attend Pop's service, but I honestly and really do think of you and your wife as I go about my day. I hope for grief to ease its grip, I hope for light to come back full force into your lives.

  4. I am glad the memorial service was nice. I hope that this time of loss is over and sunlight will come back into your lives.

  5. it is a wonderful poem...and i am glad the service went well and those that were there were meant to be there you is sad that people are scattered now...that was not important to me before but it is now...

  6. Syd, I am sorry for your losses and hope you find peace.

  7. I love the poem. And, I too miss the way that families used to be.

  8. Oh Syd, thank you for taking the time to write such a moving epitaph about Pop, with mention of his beloved wife - enjoying good times with you and C.

    Thank you, also for the beautiful poem at the end, with the picture of a person walking down a misty path. Just lovely.

    I pray that you will have a good day of rest, today.

    You and C have assisted 3 (your cousin, and both parents-in-law) souls on a new pathway - one away from earthly pain and confusion. Ya'll have provided a gift that is priceless, and will always remain tender in your hearts.

    With much love, and condolence for all you are now experiencing.

    Anonymous #1

  9. And yet ... and yet ... it is so sad for those left behind when a loved one goes "away" ...

    After awhile, as you both adjust to the new landscape, you will find new pursuits and people - or have more time for old favourites - that bring joy back into your lives. Family does not have to mean blood relatives, at least I am finding this as I get older.

    Wishing you peace and strength.

  10. Beautiful post, wonderful poem. I hope you and C. move steadily away from the pain that comes with losing a loved one. I wish peace for both of you.

  11. So much to have happened in such a relatively short time. I don't know you, Syd, but the essence of who you are (or who I imagine you to be from reading your blog), comes across quite clearly in your handling of it all. I'm struck by your sensitivity, humility and compassion. Again, wishing you and C. peace and forbearance.

  12. Just across the road. You two grow stronger daily. You are the matriarchal and patriarchal generation now.

  13. Syd,
    Never an easy passage, losses like these. I am glad the service gave comfort, and thank you for sharing the lovely poem, it is perfect. I wish peaceful hearts to you and yours during this time.

    -- Mr. SponsorPants

  14. How my heart goes out to you and C at this time.

  15. Syd you pour your heart out in these posts and this one made me cry. My father has late stage Parkinsons and is back home after a trip to the ER. I just wonder how hard it must have been for your Father in Law the past few years and yet you did the hard work (and the heart work) to do the right thing.

    Here's hoping that you and C can heal and recharge from the past few years of loss and death among family (including your four-legged family members). Perhaps as you come up for air you can add a puppy to the family mix for that young energy.

    I think of a quote I refer to often in these stages of life:

    Time heals what reason cannot.

    Hugs, love and healing prayers to you and C.

  16. It seems like almost more than you can be expected to handle ... but you have each other to cling to and I'm glad that the suffering is past for your in-laws.

  17. Here is a favorite poem on losing a loved one

    On the Death of a Beloved
    By John O'Donohue

    Though we need to weep your loss,
    You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
    Where no storm or might or pain can reach you.

    Your love was like the dawn
    Brightening over our lives
    Awakening beneath the dark
    A further adventure of colour.

    The sound of your voice
    Found for us
    A new music
    That brightened everything.

    Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
    Quickened in the joy of its being;
    You placed smiles like flowers
    On the altar of the heart.
    Your mind always sparkled
    With wonder at things.

    Though your days here were brief,
    Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

    We look towards each other no longer
    From the old distance of our names;
    Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
    As close to us as we are to ourselves.

    Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
    We know our soul's gaze is upon your face,
    Smiling back at us from within everything
    To which we bring our best refinement.

    Let us not look for you only in memory,
    Where we would grow lonely without you.
    You would want us to find you in presence,
    Beside us when beauty brightens,
    When kindness glows
    And music echoes eternal tones.

    When orchids brighten the earth,
    Darkest winter has turned to spring;
    May this dark grief flower with hope
    In every heart that loves you.

    May you continue to inspire us:

    To enter each day with a generous heart.
    To serve the call of courage and love
    Until we see your beautiful face again
    In that land where there is no more separation,
    Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
    And where we will never lose you again.


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