figuring out ways to say good bye

We lost my 23 year old niece, Alyssa, in a horrible tragedy on Father’s Day last month.  All of us in my family have been finding our ways through this grief and loss.  I was honored to be asked to write a prayer for her funeral, and those words offered up to God, and her, and her family did help.  But since that day, I’ve struggled to find words to describe my feelings about her death and saying good bye.  Forcing myself to write about it slowly and over time finally brought this poem and a teeny sense of rest.

Fare well

Invited to say good bye
I stood at her bedside.
She lay like a Grecian goddess
swathed and waxen.
I honored the moment,
and hugged her family
but did not say goodbye
because she was gone,
she wasn’t there.

Invited to write words of farewell
I carefully cut the parchment,
became dismayed at ink running, ribbon fraying,
what the hell.
I dutifully tucked the roll beside the puckered satin,
and looked at her sleeping face,
but there was nothing in my heart to say,
she was not there.

I walked in the misty rain,
a summer wind and tears
pasting my hair to my cheeks.
Elbow to elbow with the others,
our Sunday shoes sinking into the grass
to this new resting place.
Flowers were heaped into a shield of love
protecting the casket from earth.
Doves flew,
I held my breath,
but she wasn’t there.

At sunset on a summer day,
I walked as shadows lengthened on the grass,
and stood again at her final bedside,
dried and decaying blooms barely hiding
the familiar outline of a grave.
I stood in proper reverence waiting,
but she was not there.

A day, a week, two weeks passed by
and routines returned like waves upon the shore.
Driving one day I looked from left to right,
then slowed in the intersection.
My heart leapt, my eyes blinked,
at a girl with brown hair and pale face,
coming towards me,
vaguely familiar.
The young woman’s eyes looked into mine and then I knew,
this is where I’ll find her,
in every face that reminds me of hers.

The words I wrote on parchment finally escaped as prayer from my lips,
I caught the scent of roses in the breeze,
and heard the flutter of wings at last.
Tears and laughter came at once,
as my eyes followed the dancing steps
of a dark-haired young woman
going down the street.
Good bye, I said,
fare thee well, I said.

Later that night
I turned my eyes upward,
waiting for the first fireworks of July 4th to appear.
I saw the faint star above me and whispered to the dark:
How does it all look from up there, Alyssa?
Is it a most beautiful sight?

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12 responses to “figuring out ways to say good bye

  • Gretchen Staebler

    Simply beautiful, Amelia, whose name is similar to Alyssa’s. She is here in you.

  • Maureen Ingram

    Amelia, this is the ultimate of pain – to lose a loved one, so young, so vibrant. I am in tears for you and your family. Your poem is precious and healing. I am particularly moved by your words “and then I knew,
    this is where I’ll find her,
    in every face that reminds me of hers.” Lovely.

  • Robin

    Your words brought tears to my eyes. What a moving tribute to both your loved one and your healing journey. Sending thoughts and prayers your way.

  • Two years and finishing strong...

    Amelia…this is so wonderfully powerful. I love this: The young woman’s eyes looked into mine and then I knew,
    this is where I’ll find her,
    in every face that reminds me of hers.
    I find myself looking heavenward these days missing my mother-in-law so much. In a twinkling, I am reassured that we will be together again. xo
    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • elsie

    What a beautiful poem you have crafted. My heart hurt as I read each stanza. I am so sorry to learn of this loss for your family.

  • Lyssa Sahadevan (My Mommy Reads)

    I am so sorry for the loss of your loved one. The poem is beautiful and I pray that you find peace….though I know how very hard that is.

  • ccahill2013

    So touching. How hard this must have been to write. Makes me think about the therapeutic value of writing and also the pain that can come. I guess they are both needed in some ways. You and your family are in my prayers.

  • Ramona

    So hard to lose loved ones, but doubly so when someone so young leaves us. You’ve captured this difficult journey in words, and I love these lines – “The words I wrote on parchment finally escaped as prayer from my lips,…” Thank you for sharing this very personal piece of writing with us.

  • Judy Curtiss

    I was so moved by your poem and tribute to your niece. I pray that your writing will help you move through your grief. It is so difficult to have a loved one die, especially one so young and tragically. I pray that God will help you and your family find peace and comfort. Thank you for writing and sharing with this community.

  • elle1955

    You have beautifully captured the feelings of loss with your words. I, too, have found some solace (and some pain) in seeing someone who reminds me of the one I lost. I, too, have spoken to the stars. Wishing you continued healing.

  • Peg D

    Beautiful. “How does it all look from up there?”
    Food for thought. Thanks for sharing.

  • fireflytrails

    How wise of your family to ask you to write the prayer. And I know this farewell is also comforting to your family as well as to you. I am so sorry for your loss and for the unanswerable questions and wondering that this tragedy brings. I am so thankful that you have found Alyssa where she now dwells. She will live on in your words, too. My love and prayers are with you.

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