Elegy for Margaret
“Is her still dead?”
A 3-year old big sister giving voice
To a very grown-up confusion—
Baby Margaret, blameless and perfect in her mother’s embrace,
Swaddled in the arms of death.
Surely there’s been some mistake,
The Reaper with a wrong address
Or a God distracted by beauty elsewhere in creation
To let this happen.
“Why is she so cold, daddy?”
“Because this is just her body, sweetheart. Her spirit lives in our hearts now.”
And yet there are still forms to sign,
Flowers and dinners and details to arrange—
All the things that people do—
Well-meaning friends grasping for something to say
When no poet or minister
Could ever find a single comforting word
That would but wither in the face of this despair.
A family strewn instantly against the rocks, irreparably broken.
Because we’re not starfish or lizards.
When you cut away a part of us
The empty space is there forever,
A phantom chord ringing unresolved in our ear—
A one/three clamoring for a five
Or even the sting of a minor seventh—
Anything but these missing notes.
When already her song
Was the joyful refrain for so many,
The unfinished symphony of a life unlived.
Mother and Father must go on shepherding,
Encouraged by the Christ story
Because Resurrection is yet possible:
That a baby’s light cannot be entombed,
Shining still on a family that refuses to go dark.
On her sisters that must bear this loss together.
In the carefree affection of Genevieve,
In the calculating whimsy of Josephine,
In the grace and poise of Cordelia.
In all of us
Who resolve to carry on in the midst of sorrow.
To sing into the stillness of heartbreak.
To answer the impermanence of life
With the eternal promise of love.
Suffer the little children…
For of such is the kingdom of heaven,
But suffer one another as well, friends—
Because the kingdom of Earth
Holds but small refuge
Beyond each other.
And the hopefully frequent memories
Of this sweet child—
Wide-eyed and laughing—
A peace in the hearts of men.