The Thing Is
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
On my way to work, I caught a piece on a show called “Voices In The Family” by Dan Gottlieb on WHYY a NPR station. The piece was entitled the Healing Power of Poetry. The poet, Ellen Bass, read a poem, “The Thing Is,” that she wrote when she was in deep grief and it really struck a chord with me.
For those who haven’t lost someone dear you can’t completely understand. And for those who have felt the darkness of grief after losing a loved one, you understand the poem completely. You get it. You not only get it… you live(d) it.
My life is forever altered, my heart is shattered into pieces, and I will miss John till the day I die, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love life. Even in the darkest moments, there were things to love… the rainbow… blue sky… green grass… puffy clouds… our son’s laugh… the horses nickering… a cat’s purr… the smell of hay… the whirr of a mourning doves wings or their call… the beauty of a fresh snow… the starkness of a winter tree… every season… every day… holds beauty waiting to be found. John would want me to learn to love life fully again. It is a work in progress, but I’m working on it.
(If you’d like to hear the poem read by Ellen Bass and the podcast of and the show- “Healing Power of Poetry” it is currently available at the link and then should be available later on the February podcast. The poem “The Thing Is” is published in Mules of Love by Ellen Bass. Reprinted with permission of the author.)