The tragic deaths of two high school boys two weeks ago have brought back memories of our own loss which occurred almost five years ago. Can it be that long already? In some ways, it does feel like a lifetime ago but at other times, it feels like yesterday.
During that difficult week, while thinking about the two boys and our son, I turned to poetry - specifically, an anthology edited by Kevin Young called The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing.
These are excerpts from Grief by C.K. Williams. Although it is about the poet's grief over his mother's death, there is much about the feeling of grief in the first few terrible days that is universal.
Is this grief? Tears took me, then ceases; the wish to die, too, may have fled through me,
but not more than with any moment's despair, the old, surging wish to be freed, finished.
I feel pain, ….even pain for myself, my incomprehension, my fear of stories never begun now, never ending.
But still, is this grief: waking too early, tiring too quickly, distracted, impatient, abrupt,
but still waking, still thinking and working; is this what grief is, is this pain enough?
I go to the mirror: someone who might once have felt something merely regards me,
eyes telling nothing, mouth saying nothing, nothing reflected but the things of the world,
nothing told not of any week's, no, already ten days now, any ten days' normal doings.
Shouldn't the face evidence anguish, shouldn't its loving sadness and loss be revealed?
Ineffable, vague, elusive, uncertain, distracted: shouldn't grief have a form of its own,
and shouldn't mind know past its moment of vague, uncertain distraction and sureness of sorrow;
shouldn't soul flinch as we're taught proper souls are supposed to, in reverence and fear?
Shouldn't grief be pure and complete, reshaping the world in itself, in grief for itself?
My face beneath your face, face of grief, countenance of loss, of fear, of irrevocable extinction;
matrix laid upon matrix, mystery on mystery, guise upon guise, semblance, effigy, likeness.
Oh; to put the face of grief on in the morning; the tinting, smoothing, shining and shaping;
and at the end of the day, to remove it, detach it, emerge from the sorrowful mask.
Stripped now of its raiment, the mouth, caught in its last labored breath, finds last resolution;
all the flesh now, stripped of its guises, moves towards its placed in the peace of the earth.
Grief for the earth, accepting the grief of the flesh and the grief of our grieving forever;
grief for the flesh and the body and face, for the eyes that can see only into the world,
and the mind that can only think and feel what the world gives it to think and feel;
grief for the mind gone, the flesh gone, the imperfect pain that must stay for its moment;
and grief for the moment, its partial beauties, its imperfect affections, all severed, all torn.
RIP Josh. I envision you have found these boys and are showing them the ropes in the world you now inhabit. One day - we will be together again.