Magnolia is the first book of poems I composed after the sudden and tragic loss of my husband. Composed over exactly one year and containing 72 entries, the book deals with themes on loss, afterlife, love, grief, suicide, devotion and betrayal.
The poem below, an entry from Magnolia, hangs in the Neurosurgery Department at Cleveland Clinic.
FOR MY HUSBAND’S MEMORIAL AWARD
How does one measure the legacy of a man?
By his friends? His wealth and possessions?
His accomplishments? The fruits of his offspring?
My beloved was modest in the standard definitions
of these things.
He had but a few close friends, not enough for a party!
Yet every stranger he gladly comforted, each life he touched,
every face he smiled upon – for love of smiling upon faces –
is a testament to his influence, to the continually expanding wake
he made before disappearing beneath the dark surface of eternity.
In this way, he had more friends than we could count.
As for wealth, my beloved had barely enough bread for his meals.
He earnestly scraped his bowl unless someone hungrier was looking on,
and then he gladly gave of his things as though he knew no wanting.
His humble means he gladly shared and passed, knowing in truth,
wealth is not something that belongs to us. There is nothing that we own.
His résumé listed the accomplishments of a hard-working novice,
But his early mornings, long days, and late, tireless nights
may one day lead to a cure for cancer,
and surely led to the comfort even in the smallest of ways
to those in need of healing, those in need
of a tender glance or word, in need of his seat on the bus,
in need of an ear, of a laugh, of some small gesture
of human-to-human, soul-to-soul recognition.
Indeed, our smallest acts lead to great gestures.
We are his offspring, you and I, and the people our deeds touch.
What springs forth from the place he laid down his life
is a more informed joy for living, an ever-cresting loving-kindness,
murmuring, as it runs, of that divine providence
written on the fabric of the space between the stars.
Go forth. We’ll measure the legacy of kindness in each of us
By those who need it, by every living sphere of every atom
trembling with potential in the wake about each of us.