Unity in Death: A Poem on Grief

UNITY IN DEATH

in a Sunday evening

two paths conjoined

one well-worn

the other quickly mowed down

 

in the intersect

sat an upright piano

worn fingers warm ivory keys

coursing song through

our overwhelmed veins

 

it was that night

when dance swirled

with Baptist song

that beauty hurt most

 

a night I hate for its rearing loveliness

Standing in the narrow gap between the couch and chair of my Amma and Papa’s living room, I watched my Nanny gently sit on the piano bench. She proceeded to lift the lid. Within moments, a song came flowing forth. Family members gathered around, smiling at the music my Nanny brought into the room.  Aunt Kim and her best friend began dancing in one another’s arms. As I looked around the room, I started stopped seeing family members as they related to me and started seeing them as they connected with one another. I saw two fathers tearing up as they talked about losing their oldest sons. I saw a woman who had been ministering to families by playing the piano for weddings and funerals bringing joy to her own grieving family. Her daughter stood with her, singing along as she had done for every family holiday I could remember. I saw siblings reminiscing about the loss of their brother, and how this new loss reminded them of their older grief. I saw mothers smile for the first time that day, as they watched best friends dance together. My mind reeled as both sides of my family joined together for my uncle’s funeral. It was one of the worst experiences of my life, but this moment around the piano was so beautiful. I wondered briefly if I should feel ashamed for the brief, joyful moment unfolding around me after a day of tears. Members from the Creeches and the Barbers were joining each other in their healing processes. Each member was at a different stage of understanding the loss of Bobby. Everyone was reminded of other family members we lost in recent years. I was struck by the irony of the evening as it was full of intense pain and deep familiarity. These were the people I loved most. Mom’s family came from eight hours away to be with the Barbers’ and there they were, standing in one of my favorite living rooms, singing and crying with us.

The last line, “a night I hate for its rearing loveliness”, came from my own struggle to comprehend how pain and joy could be felt simultaneously. Since middle school, when my English teacher taught a section on poetry, I have written poetry to process events in my life left me drained of all emotional energy. My uncle’s death triggered another round of poetry in 2018. I’ll use this paragraph to communicate the meaning behind this poem. First, I found it humorous to see my deeply Baptist family dancing. My Nanny was sitting at my Amma’s piano, playing joyful songs as Nanny always did in her own home. Her fingers moved deftly, following instructions from the music in her mind. The Creeches’ only son, my Uncle John, disappeared almost ten years ago. They had first-hand experience with mental health starting many years ago. But the Barbers’ were, and are still, dealing with the shock of losing a loved one to suicide. In my imagination the two paths look like the paths in the Mississippi woods’ my Uncle Bobby loved to clear so Aunt Kim can run safely. The worn path represents the familiarity the Creeches had with grieving a son’s struggling mental health and the loss of his presence. On the other hand, I felt mental health awareness was intrusively introduced into the Barber family dynamic because of Bobby’s declining health and eventual suicide. We had to adjust quickly. My family as I knew it changed with one phone call from my dad, while I stood in a massive gift shop on San Francisco Bay.

With this in mind, here’s the poem once again.

in a Sunday evening

two paths conjoined

one well-worn

the other quickly mowed down

 

in the intersect

sat an upright piano

worn fingers warm ivory keys

coursing song through

our overwhelmed veins

 

it was that night

when dance swirled

with Baptist song

that beauty hurt most

 

a night I hate for its rearing loveliness

 

            Since I am not bound by a background in English, I chose to explain the context of my writing, especially since grief was the motivator for this piece. If you have constructive feedback, please pass it along. I hope this can be helpful for some of you, as others’ creative outlets for understanding grief guided my own healing process.

unityindeathwatercolor

watercolor of Unity in Death

2 thoughts on “Unity in Death: A Poem on Grief

  1. Oh my heart! Rachel, this is one of the most beautiful writings I have ever read. I can see, in my mind’s eye , this evening unfold…… the pain and the hurt…. and the deep love of the Father in the midst of it all.

    Like

  2. It really is an interesting and perplexing dynamic when grief and joy run on parallel tracks in our lives. Very beautiful writing Rachel. I thank God for giving us each such unique way to cope and heal in this life.

    Like

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