My daughter had an assignment for her English class. She had to write a memoir essay about an important moment in her life. She chose to write about the death of my sister last summer. I was surprised. She's never really opened up to me about it before.
Last night, she asked me to read what she had written. She'd been working on it for a couple of hours. "Exactly what do you want me to read it for?" I asked. "Content? Grammar? Spelling?" She shrugged and said, "Just tell me what you think," and flounced off to bed.
I sat reading her essay. For a half hour. By the time I was done, I was crying and ready for bed. The essay was rough but full of the kind of honesty I try to get my freshman composition students to embrace. It takes my students an entire semester to get there (if they get there at all). My daughter had it, and I couldn't have been prouder.
I have a Claudia Emerson poem for tonight that's sort of like an essay on loss and grief. Warning: it's not very happy.
Saint Marty never promised you a rose garden.
by: Claudia Emerson
This is the season of her dying, and you
have kept it, I find, underneath the stairs
in a box filled with photographs--her daybook
of that last year, the calendar a narrative
she did not intend to write. In the grid
of days, I see her habit had been to record
in pencil what might be erased, moved, saving
the indelible black for what could not change:
your birthday, hers, your anniversary. And in
that same decisive hand, the disease began
to eclipse this order, but she erased nothing.
Now from beneath the days the hospital claimed,
her first, latent words emerge, faint but certain
as images of ribs cradling milky lungs, the flesh forgotten
as water you can see through to the bottom.