This week, we heard the news that two of our relatives joined our creator. My father’s uncle was 73. My mother’s cousin was 52.
While on their wakes (for two separate nights), I can’t help but recall the time I first encountered death in my family, when my father died in 1998. And each time I see a coffin or families grieving I always remember those days, as if it was only yesterday when I lost my father.
While sitting outside the viewing area, I remembered a poem by the great Emily Dickinson I encountered way back high school days.
I Measure Every Grief
by Emily Dickinson
I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.
I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.
I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.
I wonder if when years have piled–
Some thousands–on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;
Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.
In those two nights, I realized that every time I go to a wake, I unconsciously measure the immensity of people’s grief and compare them to what I experienced. Was the feeling the same? Or did I have it easier because I was just nine years old then? Can time ease their pain the same way it eased mine?
Morbid thoughts I’m having.