Sunday, May 15, 2011


In my first two decades of life, one thing I have been oddly free from is the face of death.

Two nights ago, my grandfather on my dad's side-- my Opa-- flickered out and went home. I am trying to learn how to process it. I know exactly how I should be feeling and thinking. I outline it like a story with a script in my head. But I don't have the energy to follow the story. I barely feel at all.

I have two very vivid memories of my Opa that have been playing through my head over and over again. The first is from years ago, when I was 12. Around Christmas that year, my mother found a poem printed on a page on her desk. She asked where it came from, if someone had copied it out of a book. I was scared at first, wondering how I could have been careless enough to drop it. Eventually I admitted that I had written it.

My mother liked it enough that she put it in the family newsletter. I found this slightly embarrassing and quickly forgot it. But a few weeks later, I got a phone call from my Opa. I was baffled. I had never been specifically called by a grandparent before.

My Opa told me that he wanted to be sure to tell me how beautiful my poem was. He wanted me to know that it displayed a wisdom that seemed unbelievable from a 12-year-old. He wanted to tell me to keep writing.

I had been writing poetry for 4 years already then, and it would take me 5 more years to find my voice. But that was the first time I believed my poetry had any value. I had never believed it was worthwhile before then.

The other memory is stronger. I was 16, and we were gathered as a family in the mountains in north Georgia to celebrate my grandparents' 50th anniversary. I was at the height of the dark summer, the one with a story I still don't tell. I didn't talk to anyone. I spent hours wrapped in my walls of notebooks and pens. One morning everyone else was busy. I was sitting alone by a window, drawing and writing poems. My Opa came quiet behind me. He said hello and gently rested his hand on my shoulder. "You're a good girl, Mary," he said gently.

I would cry about it later, because I didn't understand how he could say that. It wasn't true, and I knew it. If he had any idea where my heart was, I have no idea if he would have offered those words. But I do know that the words stayed with me, written deep in my memory. In some of my absolute worst moments, he thought I was alright. He told me I had value.

These are the things that I remember. There are much bigger things my Opa did... a German raised in China who spent his entire life devoted to serving his Savior, teaching all over the world. His voice echoes in so many places. My siblings and I carry an incredible legacy. But I think right now, I'd rather remember the quiet moments... the gentle times, the small words. They are what I will hold onto as I say goodbye.

And I know there are many stories like this, stories that will be spun somewhere between laughter and tears over these next few days as family gathers to lay him to sleep under the grass. These are the things that are important now.

Switchfoot has a song titled Yesterdays. In this song they offer the simple phrase "every lament is a love song." And this means for me that maybe telling these stories, grieving, even shedding tears... it is a way of loving, of saying his life was beautiful.

I will write a song about him, soon. There is no melody yet, just half-formed words, but it's already pressing against my skin. A lament. A love song.

I am remembering, even if I don't yet understand. And I will tell his stories, the stories that will last long after the service on Wednesday. The stories that say something about the value of life, even if it carries the terrible weight of goodbyes.

- Elraen -

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Liz said...

wow. i can feel your heartache in your words. you always have been exceptional at that. i long to wrap my arms around you and let you grieve in whatever way you know best. somehow i knew a song would come from it all. have you thought about singing one & playing one for him at the service? it sure sounds like he would love that.

i also find it amazing that we have once again a similarity. when i lost both my grandparents in the same year, i did not do anything expected either. my sisters cried and pasted pictures on their walls. my mom was quiet for months, my dad wasn't home often. but i wasn't outwardly affected. anyway, my whole point of this comment is this:

i cannot wait until we are with Jesus and you can introduce me to your Opa.

i love you mary. darkness AND light.

Blire Daeriel said...

As Liz said, your heartache is evident in your words, even though you may not feel much at the moment. Know that you are in my prayers and thoughts as this week progresses. I love you very much, darling. May God hold you close and lift you up to the light in this storm.

Eclectic Elegance said...

*hugs* This was beautiful.

NarnianWarHorse said...

Your grandfather saw something that you haven't even seen in yourself yet: a strong, tender & responsive heart.

The way you process things doesn't have to match anyone around you. It's between you & our Savior only.

But that said, I know how you feel in some small way. My grandma on my Dad's side died just last week, but I feel very little of what I expected to feel.
There have been some...rather serious issues...for years with that side of the family that 'came to a head' recently, which means we hadn't seen or talked to this grandma in about 2 years.
Right now I feel almost nothing. I'm wondering when -or if- it will hit me that she's really gone...

But it'll be alright, so long as we don't /try/ to block out whatever feelings come up.
Not comfortable.
Not as if nothing was wrong.
Just alright, waiting for the Healer of Harms to make all things right.

You have a beautiful heart, 'Raen, & you are so very loved. *hug*