(This is a free-verse poem I discovered today, written by me not long after my mother died.)
A wooden nailbox, obviously handmade stands ready to work
On the floor of my garage beside the workbench.
It still displays black electrician’s tape
To reinforce cracked wood and shelter hands
From slivers of decades-old infection.
Rugged wood for rugged hands: my grandfather, the carpenter.
A gun cabinet, once proudly displayed in my father’s living room,
Now hides in the back of my closet.
He kept it close, behind his easy chair,
Guns ready for the unknown invader.
I keep it close, in mind and soul if not in body, to remind me.
A battered picture of Jesus, a glass curio cabinet, an antique secretary.
These are the parting gifts my mother left us.
And when is all said and done, they bear testimony to who they were.
But a desk is not a person.
And when it comes down to it,
Ashes in an urn aren’t either.
If my mother is gone, where did she go?
Can I point one direction, honestly, saying,
“My grandfather, my father, my mother, they went that-a-way”?
Are they somewhere–or nowhere?
Do the things they leave behind bear witness
To their passing–or their existence?
In the end, they’re only scraps of wood, objects of memory.
The word is not the thing, and the thing is not the thought.
They’re triggers, keys, devices that keep them fresh in our minds.
Minds fade, and thoughts with them.
And despite how much we love,
Despite how hard we try,
We lose the details with time.
But the memory we have, fresh, replete, unblemished with age,
Lies with the Father of All.
He remembers every detail of those we love,
Those He has loved since the first day of Creation,
And someday soon (please, let it be soon),
He’ll re-remember Paul, and Glen, and Milli.
To make them fresh, and new,