Its been a month of changes, I found out that indeed 40 feels a bit different, I lost my last living grandparent, and I experienced a physical pain I did not think I could bear. Its been a long 4 weeks. Its taught me much, first, 40 isn't the end of the world, but I sure did notice a few more wrinkles in places I didn't know wrinkles existed. I was again reminded that loss at any age is still loss, but I certainly have grieved differently than the 10 year old girl that lost her first grandparent. The heart still aches, but for every loss the ache is unique. And finally the pain, a pain I have witnessed but never experienced. A pain I am grateful continues to lessen - a pain that gave me the gift of recovery. Chronic illness seems to hold the euphoria of winning like the carrot on the string, never to be grasped, only to get close. I understand that may be the way it will be from now on, but this pain reminded me that the body does heal, and sometimes at a remarkable rate. Every day I feel blessed yet every day I miss the ease of living, the ease of being able to eat whatever is in front of me without worry, the ease of knowing the only demons was an over anxious mind which could be put to good use, every day I grieve a little when I watch friends and family live the way I use to live, with the ebb and flow of ups and downs - yet every day I count all of my immense blessings - and choose to focus on what can be won - I watch with awe instead of envy of those blessed with a strong physical constitution - and I hope that for me the tide is a changing...
Tribute to my Grandpa...Robert Joseph Kelly...we miss you.
It is with a heavy heart, that we each begin our own process of grieving the omnipresent wonderful human being that blessed us with 96 years of life. The odds were not in our favor that we would be honored to have our Grandpa in our lives forever, but it did begin to feel like that was a magical possibility. And I imagine, in the coming days, weeks and perhaps years ahead many of us will have that feeling that we are forgetting something or more importantly someone whom we have grown so accustomed to having by our side. Then we will catch ourselves in the reality that he is no longer physically here with us. However we can be comforted in the fact that he whom has bared witness to so much of our lives, is never far from reach.
With the military honors we have here this evening, it made me think of our countries’ declaration of independence, those famous words of inalienable rights, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. “
This phrase could not be more fitting for someone who’s life spanned nine decades, and I find it profound that in his calm and steady nature, Robert embodied this American ideal – He was drafted to serve our country, thus risking his life for us. He was a member of the “greatest” generation that secured our liberty. But most importantly and I believe the most difficult of those inalienable rights, those that most of us spend a lifetime pursuing, he attained – happiness. There are many men, despite great wealth, fame, or success that fail in this pursuit. This joy for life and love for family and friends is what I find most extraordinary about our Grandpa.
In spite of a life that was filled with hardships and disappointments, his gentle spirit, kind manner and outlook on life allowed him this gift that no one can give to you, you must find it and harness it yourself. It’s those that are truly wise, that understand in the end, happiness, a joyful spirit, and those you love are the only things worth fighting for.
I thought back on our childhoods wondering if I was exaggerating or manipulating memory, but I am confident I am not. I have absolutely not a single memory of my grandpa raising his voice or speaking unkind to those he loved. In all the interactions I witnessed between our grandpa and our grandmother, I cannot go into the recess of my mind and find one time that he spoke with a harsh tone, that he used the veil of sarcasm to hide irritation, or that he even gave a cross glance – all I can remember is a patient understanding and love, a wry smile and a knowing glance. This is remarkable. And though there is much about our grandfather that I admire, this consistent and dependable nature is high on the list.
The past few days the words from the famous poem, “Do not stand at my grave and weep” kept coming to the forefront of my mind. And to be honest, I thought it quite strange, because though our Grandpa taught us much by example, he was not a dramatic speaker, sitting us down for philosophical chats – he loved to tell stories and did so with much expression – but he was not one to quote Walden or Yates.
But I looked for the poem anyways, to read it more closely, still unsatisfied with the connection, I realized I knew nothing of the author, and it led me down a much more interesting path than the poem itself. The Wikipedia entry for Mary Frye, is simply as follows
A Baltimore housewife and florist, best known as the author of the poem "Do not stand at my grave and weep," written in 1932. She was born Mary Elizabeth Clark, and was orphaned at the age of three. In 1927 she married Claud Frye. The identity of the author of the poem was unknown until the late 1990s, when Frye revealed that she had written it. Abigail Van Buren later proved her claim.
As I looked further, a little more can be found…she wrote the poem, that just “came to her” for a friend…
“Mary's friend was a German Jewish woman called Margaret Schwarzkopf. Mary Frye said that Margaret was her closest friend and she felt she was unable to visit her dying mother in Germany due to the anti-Semitic feeling at home. This led to Margaret Schwarzkopf's tearful comment to Mary Frye, after a shopping trip, to say that she had been denied the chance to "... stand at my mother's grave and say goodbye". This prompt caused Mary Frye to write the verse there and then on a piece of paper torn from a brown paper shopping bag, on her kitchen table, while her distressed friend was upstairs. Mary Frye said the poem simply 'came to her'.
Mary Frye didn’t set out to be a world famous poet, she was a kind friend, a good listener, and created words that resonated through time. Being orphaned, her path in life was not an easy one, but she persevered. She did not require high praise for her accomplishment she was her accomplishment – and must have had a strong sense of self and self worth to let her words be used so freely.
This was the whisper; this was the message, not the poem itself, but the remarkable tale of its author. How one poem, scribbled on a paper bag, gained power and momentum not because of author, almost in spite of her.
Our grandpa, Robert Joseph Kelly, was a beautiful author of his own story, like Mary Frye his simplicity defined his complexity. A soul with a powerful and steady message that so freely rippled through all of us.
Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep - Mary Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.