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Funeral Blues

W.H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


To me, no poem can ever describe grief better. It encompasses the all engulfing pain that swallows us when we lose a piece of ourselves to someone we love who has left us through death. Watching my heart-of-gold mother go through this after losing her best friend and husband is wrenching.

“And now we are One,” wrote my aunt who described her life with her husband as “the good, the bad and the ugly.” My mom had all of her “bad and ugly”  BEFORE my dad came along. He changed her life by offering her his for 58.5 years. Many women cannot imagine the relationship my parents had and the incredible love my dad had for my mom regardless of any circumstance or event. She was his number one; he was her everything. And now he is gone. My mother is very strong and very driven–she just did not have to be when he was there. Now that he is not, I have full faith Mom will be eventually be OK, but I don’t know that she believes that yet and I cannot imagine where she is right now floating between the then, the now and the time ahead.

Facing my own grief and guilt and pain is another story. There is a difference between grief that weaves its way around a terminal illness and grief that rears its gargantuan head upon sudden death. Both agony, one builds itself from within; the other from the outside in–each step in growth an intrusion into a heart first in shock, then confused, then angry but no longer whole. (I guess I cannot intelligently speak about facing terminal death and it isn’t fair to even try to think I would know how to handle it or ever speak in discernment of someone who was in that place.) I just know how I am handling this kind of death…without rhyme or reason…it comes up from behind and commands me to my knees. I did not say good-bye; I can never again ask the questions I still have; I can never turn to him, call him, hear him or feel his pride wash over me momentarily filling in the places that are always empty until his voice fills them.  And I did not get a chance to garner closure; that is what will take the longest to procure in this kind of ending.

Eventually, though, God-willing, we will somehow one way or another get to some conclusion–yes–each of us–in our own course. I don’t wish for that to happen too fast because when it does I want to recognize and respect its presence and know where my dad’s home will end up in my heart until I meet him again–unabridged, in full, in entirety.

11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12