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.
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.
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,
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?