When Great Trees Fall

18 04 2007

Once again we find ourselves grieving for lives lost way too soon and in such a heinous manner. I have no personal connection to Virginia Tech and its students, but I feel the loss nonetheless.

I heard an interview this morning on NPR with Kathleen O’Hara whose son, a college student, was abducted from his dorm room, sexually abused, and murdered. She is a psychoanalyst by profession and in her book A Grief Like No Other,  likens grief to an ocean that we have to cross when we experience loss. I can’t find a link to the interview on NPR yet but you can read more about her here. She talked about the tools that one needs to carry along to complete the “journey.”

My “tools” include consoling words and inspirational thoughts, particularly ones that acknowledge the pain but in the end circle back to hope. My favorite of these is Maya Angelou’s When Great Trees Fall. The world lost many great trees on Monday, April 16.

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better.  For they existed.

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One response

30 01 2009
Raul Feliciano

I believe…in nature. I plant, propagate, study, watch my surroundings
and help with my collection of plants the ecology… Practice and preach.
All else is water and salt.

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