“When death strikes down the innocent and young,
for every fragile form from which he lets the panting spirit free,
a hundred virtues rise,
in shapes of mercy, charity, and love,
to walk the world and bless it.
Of every tear that sorrowing mortals shed on such green graves,
some good is born, some gentler nature comes.” –
1st published in December 2011
12 year old Nicholas was cremated. We dropped his ashes into Kootenay Lake, off the shore opposite the mouth of Powder Creek, where he loved to go fishing. We waited a year after his death before we did something with his remains, but I was certain I didn’t want to keep any of the ashes, they were not my son but the burned remnants of a body that quit working for him. I poured them over the side of the boat, the surprisingly heavy bag becoming lighter, a breeze spraying soft grey dust along the water’s surface and the glacier fed lake swallowing my son’s last earthly existence.
It was a final act, another emotional severing, and I realized that I had developed an attachment to Nick’s ashes, because for a while I even grieved the loss them.
A friend of mine keeps a tiny bit of her son’s ashes inside a locket that she wears around her neck. In time, we all do what feels right.
For bereaved parents, Christmas, especially if a child has recently passed, can be brutally difficult. We are drawn to visit the “green graves” (in my part of the earth snow-covered) of our lost sweet babes. This is supposed to be a time for happy family gatherings, instead it serves to heighten our pain.
My son, was as Charlie said, a “fragile form from which He let the panting spirit free.”
Maybe Charlie didn’t intend for a reference to God, but I sure as heck would never have got the poignant meaning in this poem in the early years after my child’s death, because I was mad (as hell) at God. But today, during this month of Yuletide, twelve years (2011) of Christmases without my boy, I’m embracing the HOPE inside this C. Dickens poem.
A child’s short time on this earth is never in vain. Dickens says, their spirits leave (behind) to roam this fragile earth, among our temporary lives, their virtues of mercy, love and charity. As parents, our tears drip down our cheeks and they fall on our children’s green graves but inside of us we carry the tenderness of our children’s hearts – always.
I tell you newly bereaved parent, take solace that there will come a gentler time for you in your grief – remembering will not be so hard. And you are never alone.
I will be hanging a treasured Nick-ornament on the Christmas tree. My friend Charlotte has the same chocolate Hershey’s kiss inside a tiny hand knit stocking that her three year old son hung on a long ago Christmas tree the year before he got his angel’s wings. I know a gentle bereaved parent who bows his head and quietly says hello to his lost children.
Would you like to share something you do at Christmas to honor the memory of your loved one?
Published December 5, 2011