Archive for grief

The Labyrinth

Posted in Family, Verse, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2015 by Mike

Go walk The Labyrinth.

It’s on the lawn of the Laughing Heart Lodge,

just a 10-minute stroll from your house.

Though your heart is seldom laughing these days,

the Labyrinth may bring it some passing amusement.


Resist the dirty building or cabin detour.

You don’t need it.

The swig may briefly numb your new reality

but liquor is a deceitful mistress,

picking your pocket while stroking your hair.


During your walk to the lodge, you will talk to someone you know,

or meet a stranger, maybe a through-hiker or retreat guest

that you will befriend through your playful sociability.

And you both will need that exchange, a moment that is

reproduced 50 times a day in Hot Springs,

maybe more if you’re walking the streets.


The Labyrinth is a spiral stone pathway with a single entry designed

for pedestrians to meander their way to the center.

Of course you could walk right over the rocks and save yourself

some time, high-stepping to the center of the spiral–

but that would be missing the point.

You’re supposed to walk the whole thing.

And there are times when you think,

“Why am I even bothering to do this?”

It does seem pointless.

But it’s like grief: It’s long, painful, sometimes hardly worth the trouble,

with a questionable ending.

Will it even be worth it? What is the payoff?

But you have to do the steps.

You have to make the journey and do the work.

You need to pay attention to the walk and trust

that at the end you will be centered

and somehow more at peace.


There’s likely a good description of the Labyrinth in the lodge’s brochure,

a deeper meaning, a more convincing why,

but the fact that someone arranged all those rocks into that dwindling orbit

is reason enough to go mosey down the path.


I walked over with the kids and they both took the shortcut–

they stepped right over the stones in a beeline to the middle,

bored with the long circular stroll, unimpressed with the design

and unaware of any underlying point.


They are new to all this–just beginning their own walks–

and it’s impossible to guess where their paths will lead them.

And I know we both want to watch them

find their way as long as we can.

All we can do is go until we stop

and encourage each other’s shaky progress.

I still toast our efforts.



Goodnight, Hester

Posted in Family, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , on January 14, 2015 by Mike
nanny2I lost my grandmother just before Christmas. I got a call that she was in the hospital and not doing well–I drove six hours to the mountains and joined the family vigil near the ICU–the next day she was gone. Three days later I stood in front of family and friends in a tiny church in Hot Springs, NC and tried to blubber out these words.

I’m not sure how it is for you, but this is how it is with me. There are two spigots inside me right now and they’re both running wide open. Out of one of the taps is a torrent of sadness but I’ll try to ignore that one for now and focus on the other spigot. Rushing out of the other tap inside me are fond recollections from 40-something years worth of memories that are just flooding back. A million things that I’d forgotten. My otherwise foggy memory has provided these unexpected gifts, brought them out of the recesses for me to ponder and reflect on and I thank my memory for those gifts, and those memories are coming fast and strong.

With one tap spewing sadness and the other tap spewing wonderful memories, there’s a sea of emotion rolling just beneath the surface, and I imagine we are all going through a similar thing, each in our own way, each with our own flooding memory banks.

Here are a few reflections of Nanny from my happy tap.

Nanny was sweet, caring, and always interested in what you were doing and thinking.

She was funny and had a way of delivering one-liners and old-timey sayings that would break you up. “My stars…” was used to express mild disbelief…but “You’re kidding…” was reserved for special occasions and true family scandals.

She was extremely thoughtful and generous. If the Carter’s Children’s store in Gatlinburg has a Hall of Fame for Legendary Spenders, she is surely a part of it.

As many of you know, she was a gracious hostess and lived to serve others. You could not enter her house without having to eat a bite of something. She was not above waking you up from a sound sleep to ask if you wanted more pie.

There was nothing like watching Nanny and Deedaddy manage a meal in the kitchen. Deedee poking at some bacon in the frying pan; Nanny wiping up crumbs. She was forever wiping up crumbs. Nanny had the unique ability to see crumbs that weren’t even visible to the naked eye. They had a playful, spunky, ongoing chatter with each other that always made us laugh. It was a dance. And for people who think Dancing with the Stars is entertainment, they never saw Nanny and Deedee work a kitchen.

She stayed in touch, even when you weren’t doing your part.

I looked in my phone for something from Nanny; we talked a lot but I recently deleted a bunch of stuff from my phone. The last item in my deleted voicemail folder, was a call from Nanny.

It said, “Call me when you get a minute. I want to see how busy you are today. I guess you’re real busy, aren’t you? Let me know. Talk to you later, honey. Bye.”

I like to think I returned that call, but I don’t know. I am busy. But we’re not as busy as we think we are. There’s time to carve out for people. Showing your love, concern, and gratefulness is easy. Love is a currency that we all use, we all give it and take it, spend it, share it, or save and hoard it. You never know when you will lose the ability to give it or receive it. So it’s up to each of us to send that love around while we can.

I love you, Nanny. I hope you knew how much.