An incredible woman in my life recently lost her father. That one sentence tells you everything, without any history, without specifics, because it is enough to know that a girl, no matter her age, has lost her daddy.
I’m going to share something with my friend, something I’ve shared with just a few others, something that helped me when the realization finally hit that my niece was physically gone, forever. Something that continues to help me. A poem.
I discovered the poem a week or so after Andrea died, at a time when the weight of her death felt like a slow, wet suffocation. I grieved the day of her death and the days that followed as we prepared for her memorial service, received guests, looked through photos, nibbled at the random casseroles brought to the house by friends who followed the long tradition of feeding those left behind.
But, the real hurt doesn’t begin until later, when your friends have returned to their normal lives, as a matter of fact, the entire world moves on, and you attempt your own normal.
That’s where I was when I discovered this poem. While I no longer read it weekly, I still turn to its lines, its simple words, to ease my mind and heart. It’s become a guideline on how to live without someone, how to remember them, how to honor them, how to hope. Whenever I share this poem it is with the hope these words will also guide them through the hours, days, and years living with the ache within their heart.
My beautiful friend is strong, willful, smart and kind. She delivered her father’s eulogy, opening with “I am my father’s daughter.” Yes, she is, but she also is her own force, her own woman. I know there will be days when she will imagine hearing his laughter in a crowded room, recognize his smile on the innocent face of her child, or smile when the iPod shuffle stops on a familiar song. And it’s during these moments I pray she knows he is always with her, always near, just around the corner.
Death is Nothing at All
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name. Speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effect. Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same that it ever was. There is absolute unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you. For an interval. Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
-Henry Scott Holland