Tag Archives: Mourning

Courage at Twilight: Crêpes Frangipane

They did not know what to say, so they said nothing, and I suffered alone.  When I separated and divorced almost seven years ago, not one neighbor, not one congregation member, not one ministerial leader approached me with friendship or compassion or support.  They did not know what to say, apparently, so they stayed away and said nothing at all, and I anguished utterly alone.  (Thank God, Mom and Dad and Sarah and Jeanette and Carl and Paul and Megan and Don and Carolyn and Steven—parents, siblings, and three friends—they loved me through.)  I think that “I don’t know what to say” is a hideous excuse for pretending not to see, and for withdrawing and withholding, and for saying nothing.  I reject it.  How easy it would have been for anyone to say, “I am so sorry!” or “What can I do to support you?” or “You will get through this, and I want to be there with you as you do.”  I reject it: actually, we do know what to say, but we are reluctant to feel another’s pain, afraid to do the emotional work of empathy.  Just: say anything kind.  That ought to be easy.  When our neighbor’s infant grandson died in his crib in their house this week, constricted by a blanket laid there to warm and comfort the baby boy, dozens of men and women rushed to the house and kept coming every day for weeks, with meals, with hugs, with encouragement, with loving silence, with tears, and with other assurances of love and hope.  I did not know what to say, and I did not go, right away.  But I had rejected that justification, and I had determined never to stay away for the lack of the right words.  Instead of words, I took over a plate of hot crêpes stuffed with chocolate almond frangipane (French pudding) and handed the goodie plate over with a smile and said the words “You might want to use a fork—they are a bit messy” and “This is an authentic French dessert” and “I don’t know what words to say” and “So many people love you and care for you and mourn with you and have hope for your healing and happiness.”  And he embraced me and said, “Thank you.  I can’t wait to give them a try.”  After church today, a group of women surrounded the grieving grandmother and talked and cried and hugged and counseled—they loved.  Dad observed to me, “That is more than just a group of women talking.  Christ is there with them, healing.”  And I knew Dad spoke truth.

On the Jordan

Utah’s Jordan River meanders northward for 50 miles from Utah Lake to the Great Sale Lake.  I have enjoyed kayaking sections of the river with family recently, finding it a beautiful, peaceful, contemplative place, though a challenge to paddle upstream in spots.  I have also enjoyed riding the riverside trail on my bicycle.  I wrote this poem after my third paddle during which I grieved over the recent death of my nephew.  The glassy, calm water, the Great Blue Heron and Belted Kingfisher, the signs of fresh beaver chew, the tree branches arching over the water, all served to sooth my mind a bit.  Water has a way of doing that.  Enjoy.

ON THE JORDAN

down here
low
on the water
so much fades away
unseen
beyond the banks
no buildings
no cars
no traffic lights;
on the water ahead
reflections of sky and trees
behind, a gentle wake
and the river stretches forth
forever, it seems
around gentle bends
all overhung by drooping tree boughs
reaching over and down
for me to paddle
under and around

Kingfisher is belted
brawny in the neck
tall-crested
offended
at my nearness
swooping low
over his reflection
with a chiding cackle;
I chase him from tree to tree
downstream
to the edge of his territory
where he turns
to brave me and my boat
and fly
upstream
excreting as he passes

Heron is indeed
great and blue
perched on a dead-fall
as I round a curve
and hold my paddles still
floating toward
silent and slow;
she grows anxious
turning her big-beaked head
quickly left and right and left and right
on her tall and slender neck
and she leaps to fly
slow-beating wings out
their full six feet;
an irritated trill
downstream

Sparrow, white-crowned
hops about
unconcernedly
on a bed of green algae
and assorted human garbage
beer cans, basketballs
soda cups, sneakers
caught in the branches
of a fallen tree

the river flows slowly
and I can paddle
upstream and down
with even strokes of equal ease
dipping left and pulling back
dipping right and pulling back
reaching forward—and pulling back
water sprinkling

thoughts glide and eddy
opaque
like the brown water
reflecting
sky and trees
thoughts stuck
in the muddy muck
like the butt of a green Russian Olive limb
chewed and planted
last night
by a beaver

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.