So much of any year is flammable, lists of vegetables, partial poems. Orange swirling flame of days, so little is a stone. Where there was something and suddenly isn’t, an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
~ excerpt from Burning the Old Year, by Naomi Shihab Nye
Among other neat things, my neighborhood has poetry kiosks. It was in one of these odd little structures I found this new-to-me poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. Her poem Burning the Old Year struck me this week with its line: where there was something and suddenly isn’t, an absence shouts…
I bet you can relate to that. Someone was here, and they suddenly aren’t. Their absence shouts.
No matter how friendly you may have been with the concept of death, or how long you had to “adjust” to an impending death, the reality of death and grief comes as a surprise.
No one can fully prepare for the something that was there and suddenly is not.
Absence shouts from every angle, every corner of your life. There is nowhere it does not reach.
For a long time after Matt drowned, I expected him to simply walk back in. Walk back into the kitchen from the bedroom. Walk back into the coffee shop after parking the car. Walk back across the lot from the woods at the edge of the water.
Just – please. Walk back in.
His absence in my life, our life, echoed off of everything.
The echoes continue into a future we do not have. There is nowhere his absence does not reach.
And this is a thing many people outside your grief cannot understand: that you have not simply lost one person, at one point in time. You have lost their presence in every aspect of your life. You future has changed as well as your “now.”
As your grief unfolds, you will find more and more places their absence shouts. I don’t mean that as a downer. The truth is, as we live forward, we carry their absence with us. The absence exists because love exists. The only thing time will do is shift the balance, allowing more love to take over that absence, filling in the empty place with its own weight.
As you move through this coming week, my hope for you is that the love you feel equals the absence, that love takes up just as much space.
May you feel your own love and the love of the one who has gone like the outgoing and incoming tides: both real, both present, neither cancelling each other out.
Read the rest of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem at this link.