Sunday, April 22, 2012

18 Months

Eighteen months ago today, Matthew passed away.  Eighteen months ago, we lost our son, our brother, our grandson, our nephew, our cousin, our friend. Eighteen months ago, our lives changed in ways we never could have imagined.
Hiking in Nicaragua at the end of 2009
I've been reflecting a lot this weekend about the past year and a half.  We've had glorious weather and I've spent a good amount of time outside.  I took long walks, worked in the garden and mostly just sat in the sunshine and thought about Matthew. 

I saw the tree he fell out of as a nine year old when he broke his arm. I saw the batting cage where he took cut after cut all the way through high school. I saw the path he built the summer before he died. 

I feel Matthew the most when I'm outdoors. From the time he was a very little boy, he loved spending time outside as much as possible. For me, the spaciousness of the outdoors helps remind me of the great mystery that surrounds us.  When I'm outside I'm much more able to feel the interconnectedness of all life--past, present and future. It's a comforting thought. 

I want to share a poem that a friend sent me on the first anniversary back in October. I find the last stanza to be particularly powerful.

When Great Trees Fall
by Maya Angelou

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, 
gnaws on kind words 
promised walks 
never taken. 

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

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. 


  1. Hi Robin,
    What a beautiful poem! There is something about being in nature that helps us connect to our loved ones. I was thinking of my dad as I worked in the garden this weekend and it felt like he was right there. I'm glad Matthew was there with you.


  2. "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."


  3. Wow is right. The poem is incredible as are your words and feelings. You wrote: the spaciousness of the outdoors helps remind me of the great mystery that surrounds us. When I'm outside I'm much more able to feel the interconnectedness of all life--past, present and future. It's a comforting thought.

    That so resonates with me.
    Thank you.

  4. Robin,
    your thoughts and words are beautiful, as is the poem by Maya Angelou.
    love bobbie

  5. What a beautiful gift, that poem. I send loving solidarity to you on this anniversary.

  6. My friend Jeff wasn't able to comment here, so he sent me an e-mail which he said I could put in, Here it is:

    Dear Robin,
    I know the ache and the ferocious mercy of being able to connect with one we have lost through the natural world. Somehow the eternal rhythms, the changes of the seasons, the life songs all around us, are a poignant reminder that we are moving along in a stream or river that will flow forever.

    Your writing made me think of a journal entry I wrote early this morning when I couldn't sleep. Although I was writing about fear, I think that it also applies to the way that grief can grip us at times. I thought I would share it with you for what it's worth.

    "The first birds of morning are singing right now. They know that the world is going to waken to a new dawn. They sing as though their lives are ordered, true and predictable. Everyday the sun rises. She sends us her life giving light with predictable surety, even in the dead of winter, even when the clouds thickly hide her face from us. The eternal rhythm is not affected by my fears (grief). The seasons are turning winter to spring. Yesterday in the 80 degree heat every garden was bursting with joy, glowing with new green shoots of possibility. The flowers waiting for this warm light opened to the day in glorious triumph. The trees blush green with leaf and bud. ALl this cycle of growth: life, death, harvest, rot, bud, flower, fruit is inviting me to join the dance. My life, too, follows an eternal rhythm. I am invited to rest into this journey. Nothing I can do will stop me from following this path. I can only pay attention and bear witness and give myself to the gifts offered to me everyday, Even my sleeplessness is an opportunity to learn and grow if I surrender. No judgment. No self condemnation. No justification....Acceptance. Gratitude. Faith. Trust. Grace. These are the gifts that will allow me to live fully and well in this world."

    Your friend and companion on the journey,


  7. Hey Robin, Love the pictures. So many good times with Matthew in the woods by your house and in that backyard. Hope to see you soon and hope you are doing ok.

  8. Hi Charlie--great to hear from you. As you know, you definitely qualify as Matthew's oldest friend since the two of you met at 6 weeks. Hope you are well; perhaps we can visit with you the next time we're up in Bellingham.

  9. That would be great Robin, let me know if you come up. I will be headed back down to the Seattle area around June.