i guess the saddest thing any parent has to do is bury a baby. for me the second saddest thing was for the anticipating sibling to have to experience grief a such an early age…that was incredibly painful.
i wrote an early version of this poem for the funeral of my daughter, Holly I.M. April 1st, 1994.
Oh, Holly! how hard to cradle
your dark-haired head,
your limp-dead body,
in my useless embrace.
How could I make your anxious
eyes respond with a baby smile?
How could I? How could I?
Your mouth shaped by mute cry.
Was that athletic kicking a death wrestle?
Was it? Was it?
Empty hours passed,
this coward’s courage grew,
I held your cold, light body.
I stroked your petal-peeling skin.
Heavy-hearted I kissed
your crumpled, frowning forehead –
once …. just once ….
“Put these tears in Thy bottle. Are they not in Thy book?”
Goodbye, goodbye, au revoir, ‘slán’
– little daughter briefly met,
little Lawrence kissed you
through ballooned belly.
O How he happily hugged you.
Broken-hearted, drowning in grief,
this our last lingering look at you,
in your padded white ark,
the lid clicks shut, locked tight.
We hand-tighten stubborn screws
we almost snap with grief’s strain.
Little girl, little known except to God.
How plain, how lonesome
your small, white coffin looks,
O painful pilgrimage;
hopeful sojourners, we follow you.
Oh, Holly – our lifetime compressed:
death & birth in two traumatic weeks …
we bury you under flowers
under the Father’s sentinel gaze.
I envy Jesus carring you now,
a loved lamb on shepherd-shoulders.
I want to hear your girlish giggle,
I ache to see you daintily dance,
I long to see you created anew.
I yearn for resurrection.
Cast open sorrow-graves:
“When Jesus comes back,
she’ll be alive.
Isn’t that right, Daddy?
When is Jesus coming back?
“He will wipe away all tears from their eyes and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All that has gone forever”.
A video-short about Holly’s life, as seen by her siblings