Poetry has been called “the language of the human heart,” and we turn to it when our hearts are breaking. The shock of loss and the pain of grief are physical as well as emotional, and sometimes hard to put into words. Poetry reminds us that these feelings are not unique to us, and by sharing them we can be comforted by our common humanity. Poets face life’s most difficult questions head-on and unafraid, and through their work, we find solace and wisdom.” ~Caroline Kennedy, from She Walks in Beauty
My dear neighbor and friend is dying. We have lived side by side for the past 30 years, and though sometimes days have gone by when we haven’t seen one another, her constant, quiet presence has always been a comfort to me. She looked out for me when I was a young mother, and, in the past few years, I have looked out for her in her old age. She wanted nothing more than to be able to stay at home until she died – and she almost made it. She went into the hospital last Thursday, but she won’t be coming home again.
“Why should I gripe?” she said last night when I talked to her on the phone. “I’ve lived a long time. I’m 88 years old!”
My friend loved to read, and most any evening I could see the glow of her reading lamp – on her sunporch in summer, and in her little front bedroom/sitting room in winter. She loved historical novels and romance novels, but didn’t care for mysteries. “Oh no,” she said once with a shiver, when I asked her if she had read a certain mystery writer I liked. “I don’t like all the killing.”
My friend loved to write and receive letters. She once wrote dozens of letters in a month – to brothers and sister in laws and cousins. Last summer, she told me that her last living cousin had passed away. “And now I only have two people left to write to,” she said.
I think one of the saddest, hardest parts of aging is losing all one’s family and friends, watching them disappear from your life like stars going out, one by one. Being left behind must be so painful, suffering through that grief time and again, and wondering when it will be your turn.
Caroline Kennedy, who edited this lovely book of poems She Walks in Beauty, is certainly no stranger to loss. In her lifetime, she has lost her father, her mother, and her brother. “There have been periods when I have wanted to withdraw from the world,” she writes. “Knowing that my mother turned to poetry at difficult times in her life, and reading the same poems that brought her solace, helped me feel her presence and gave me strength.”
Here then, is a poem from this anthology, that speaks to me today as I face the loss of a friend…
Never More Will the Wind
Never more will the wind
Cherish you again.
Never more will the rain.
Shall we find you bright
In the snow and wind.
The snow is melted,
The snow is gone,
And you are flown:
Like a bird out of our hand,
Like a light out of our heart,
You are gone.