Your grief for what you’ve lost holds a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expand
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
For Those Who Have Died
Judah (Yehuda) HaLevi
Tis a fearful thing
What death can touch.
To love, to hope, to dream,
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
But a holy thing,
To love what death can touch.
For your life has lived in me
You laugh once lifted me;
Your word was a gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
Tis a human thing, love,
A holy thing,
What death can touch.
Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
I never met Martha nor any of her kin.
She died alone a century ago,
outliving parents, brothers and sisters,
cousins, uncles and aunts.
Once she and her tribe numbered
in the tens of hundreds of millions
and darkened the sky
in their passing.
All too soon they flew to that further shore,
singly and in pairs,
in dozens and thousands.
She was the last to join them.
We are all passing that way, of course
sooner rather than later,
drivers and passengers alike,
hurrying to some imagined better place.
But if we could slow down enough
we might look a little more kindly
on all that we are passing
and all that is passing us.
I take refuge in our shared awakening.
I take refuge in that which is.
I take refuge in the community of all beings.
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha!
John O’Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us
When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence
Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.
Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.
There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.
Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.
It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.
Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.
As out of compost does the lily grow,
so from the refuse of our lives, beauty
can be born. The seed does not spurn the low
earth, excrement of worms, but completely
gives itself, is buried in it, fortified,
and transformed, taking refuge in that which
the world casts off. Therefore lay not aside
your griefs, but like the good gardener, gather rich
green weeds of mind, dung of low and mean intent
dry bones of despair, ashes of burnt out desire,
twisted thorned prunings, which your heart rent.
Water with tears, while the alchemical fire
Burns and purifies until you are not weed,
but humus; rich, black and sweet, ready for seed.
The poems above are printed by permission.