Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Poem - "No Answer"

It is coming up on three years since I have been thrust on this grief journey by the tragic and irrevocable action of our youngest son, Josh. This blog was created with a duel purpose: to remember him and to chronicle the painful trek.  As I try to find ways to express myself, a new path has emerged, one evidenced by recent posts - POETRY.

I am losing myself in this unchartered world, profoundly impacted by the writing of newly found authors such as Lord Alfred Tennyson, Robert Pinsky, Anne Sexton, W.H. Auden, and John Berryman, while excited to discover more.

My attraction to this genre is surprising.  I've never been one for poetry, finding it too obscure, archaic and ambiguous for my simple taste and analytical mind.  I've not had the patience or motivation to read closely, dig deep for meaning, or make the extra effort to find and interpret ideas or supply connections.  I've gravitated towards the vast material written in prose form: fiction, memoir, biography, non-fiction.  And while I find prose easier to read and comprehend, it is far harder for me to write. Poems, at least right now, are an easier medium for me to portray a certain thought, feeling or emotion as evidenced by the three penned so far:  A Mother's Love, Silence Is the Answer and Over and Over Again.

For example, I have tried to write about the horrible day that I found Josh, not necessarily as a blog post but just within my own journal.  Where do I start?  What do I say?  How can I ever hope to convey what happened in that life-changing second?  Simply put, I cannot.  But when I was writing in my journal this morning, I started stringing words together that began describing that terrible morning.   The resulting poem says it all:

No Answer
by Sue Anderson

No answer,
   Voice silent.

No response, 
   Mind gone.

No sight, 
   Eyes unblinking.

No movement,
   Body stiff.

No breath,
   Chest still.

No beat, 
   Extremities blue.

No life,
   Hope abandoned.

Why?  I screamed,
   No answer.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Can't Sleep - Words Fall Short

It is now 1:12am and I can't sleep.  I feel like writing a post but don't know what to say.  So am staring at a blank page with the cursor blinking, waiting for the next thought, word, sentence.  My mind is blank but that is an illusion.  I know I can't sleep because my mind won't turn off but try as hard as I might, my thoughts are slippery, elusive and refuse to be tamed.

So now, I turn to my feelings.  What do I feel?  Cursor is blinking while I think about this.  Answer: nothing.

So now I turn to books.  What have I read recently that can describe what I feel?  Or where I am at?  Ahhh, now I am getting somewhere.  Immediately, I think of two poems that basically say that when one is grieving the death of a loved one, words fall short.

by John Berryman
He died in December. He must descend
Somewhere, vague and cold, the spirit and seal,
The gift descend, and all that insight fail
Somewhere.  Imagination one's one friend
Cannot see there.  Both of us at the end.
Nouns, verbs do not exist for what I feel.
So maybe it is not that I don't feel anything....maybe it is that I have run out of ways to express what I feel.

Another poem that speaks to and for me:

In Memoriam A.H.H. - Canto V
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within. 
In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold;
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.
RIP beloved Josh

Monday, January 16, 2012

Happy 20th Birthday Josh

The three month stretch from November - January is tough for right on the heels of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years is Josh's birthday, January 16th. He would've been 20 years old today. Luckily, I had the day off so while the country celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday, we met my parent's at Josh's park, with balloons and white roses. While serenaded by a chorus of chimes, we placed the petals on the grass.

The park is beautiful - still full of Christmas decorations

Josh's tree - packed with chimes and keepsakes

Balloons sent up to the heavens by Rox and her family

RIP Josh. We love and miss you, now more than ever.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Poem: "Over and Over Again"

This poem is dedicated to all those who grieve the loss of a loved one.

Over and Over Again
by Sue Anderson

Tears trickle
Tears drip
Tears gush

Eyes water
Eyes well
Eyes overflow

Head fills
Head hurts
Head explodes

Grief ambushes
Grief tackles
Grief overwhelms

Life shocked
Life upended
Life carries on

Over and over again

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"In Memoriam" Canto IV - "deep vase of chilling tears" by Tennyson

Break, thou deep vase of chilling tears,
that grief hath shaken into frost!

This says to me that tears of grief are deep - even, bottomless.  No matter how many are shed, there are as many or more to replace them - fed by an eternal fountain or wellspring of grief.  But sometimes the tears are frozen within, crystallized, like frost on blades of grass.  What will break them so they can freely flow?

Maybe a thought, a picture, a memory, a gift, a touch, a hug, a song, a quote, a book, a movie, a scene, a poem, a word, a dream, a look, a remark, a question, an answer, a day, an anniversary, a holiday, a place, a room, an item, a keepsake, a grave, an eulogy, a hope, a fear, a wish.

And despite the pain of tears - and maybe it is the avoidance of the pain that the tears are frozen - they are good for us.  If we find ourselves in this frosty state, we may need to do something lest we remain chilled, cold and frozen within.  For me, it is writing in my sacred journal.  It is reading books that make me think about death and grief.  It is visiting Josh every week and writing a letter to him.  It is seeing the pictures that cover my fridge door and fill end tables and the piano top.  It is wearing one of his shirts. It is sitting in his room reading and writing.  It is writing on this blog and on my grief journey blog.  These activities keep the tear ducts warm, free and open, ready when the need arises.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"In Memoriam A.H.H" by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Along with the poetry anthology, The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing, I plan to read Lord Alfred Tennyson's epic work, In Memoriam A.H.H. (1849) which was written over a seventeen-year period after the sudden death of his best friend and fellow poet, Arthur Henry Hallam at the age of twenty-two.  He died of a stroke.  Hallam was engaged to Tennyson's younger sister, Emily. Both Alfred and Emily named their elder sons after him.

In Memoriam A.H.H is considered to be not only one of Tennyson's greatest works but one of the great poems of the entire 19th century.  Queen Victoria turn to the lyrical work after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, "Next to the Bible, In Memoriam is my comfort."

Similar to the form of other long poems or epics such as Lord Byron's Don Juan or Dante's Divine Comedy, In Memoriam is divided into 133 cantos.  I never realized this beautiful quote is from canto XXVII :
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
I have found a web site which gives an easy-to-understand summary of each canto.  This will be very helpful to me as I make my way slowly through the poem.  I plan to write posts on what I learn.

Canto IV
Canto V

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Poem: "Silence Is the Answer"

Treasures are found when you least expect it.  Since Josh's passing, I have been on the lookout for an anthology of poems focused on loss, grief and recovery.  On a recent trip to Barnes & Noble, I found The Art of Loss: Poems of Grief & Healing (2010) edited by Kevin Young, a contemporary poet who realized the need for such a book when his father was killed in an accident.

In the introduction he writes about his own experience with grief and of the purpose of the book:
To lose someone close to you is to enter an experience no amount of forethought or hindsight can free you from.  You must live through grief.  You cannot outsmart it, nor think through the fact of someone's being gone, and forever.  You must survive the sorrow.  
To lose someone today is to go into strange realms of "bereavement specialists" and sympathy cards and funeral arrangements - things you suddenly realize have been going on for a good while, without you, in something of a parallel world.  The world of grief can feel like that, a limbo realm that at the least gives you a strong perspective on the everyday world: Why are all these people walking around, oblivious to loss?  Why am I still here while my loved one is not?  Surviving any death can carry its own guilt.  It also brings on a slew of cliches, often offered in lieu of sympathy, that can sometimes cause more anxiety than comfort.  It is hard to know what to say.  The poems here seek to avoid cliche, in order to say what needs to be said. 
I have gathered the poems in this anthology to reveal the many ways poets seek to find words and form to contain loss and to fulfill the reader's need for comfort and companionship in the words of another.  Often, in death, everything else fails.
He has divided the book into six sections which mourners may find themselves in at some point during their grief journey:  Reckoning, Regret, Remembrance, Ritual, Recovery and Redemption.   I plan to slowly read through the poems and share my thoughts on subsequent posts.  This is a good project to start in the New Year - our third, sans Josh.

I will end this post with a quick poem that I penned the night I started reading the book.

Silence is the Answer
by Sue Anderson

I can see him
in my mind's eye
healthy, happy boy!

What happened?
Where did he go?
What have I done?
What didn't I do?

And now I am left 
with an empty room and heart,
trying to understand,
trying to live.

Why him?
Why us?
Why me?

Silence is the answer.