March 14


I remember the way you talked about your daddy,
How your eyes would dim when you said he was only 81.
“He’d have lived to 100, if he hadn’t smoked.”

I understand, now.
I know the waking panic of 3 AM;
The nauseating sense that a great mistake has been made—
A wrong that must be remediated,
An overturning that must be righted.

I know what it means to scrabble and claw in the dark
After the elusive solution,
That golden key which will turn this tragedy
Back into the comedy it’s meant to be.

It doesn’t help to tell myself it’s not my fault,
That no penance of mine will ever bring you back,
No gauntlet win your freedom from this foe.

(How long the years stretch forth when stained by loss!)

You didn’t make it, either—
Your daddy was gone before you got there,
Though you drove through the night.

(But I understand why you never went back to New Orleans.)

I crossed a continent, mad as Mercury to be at your side.
For what—to make you stay? To hold you back
In that broken body? Imprisoned for one more second
In the fear and pain of a shattered mind?


(And, yet, I can’t help feeling there must be
Something I should have done.)

It’s never safe to lose a daddy like yours

Or mine.

You would have been 68 today.
(Are you older or younger now?)
Perhaps, in years to come, this will again be a day of laughter,
And remembering. Today
All I can think is, “Too young.”

I never can stomach the shrinking delicacy of “passed away.”
The daintiness that glances aside from Death’s firm gaze
And calls it someone’s “time.”

But I know you shouldn’t be dead.

You should be ripping through the grand tall tale of your life,
Braver than a boar hog,
Stronger than a new rope,
Wild as a buck,
Light-hearted as a summer sky.

You should be flinging out the great largesse of your laugh,
Making all within earshot as rich as kings.

You should be telling me to do what I’m made for,
Telling me not to be afraid of life.
(You never did have to tell me that—
When you were near, I wasn’t scared of anything.)

But if Death’s dark grammar defies imprecision,
Mercy all the more demands exactitude:
I cannot speak of you in lies of “was” and “were.”

And while I pine for your smile,
The sound of your voice,
The calloused knots of your hands,

I cannot deny that you are.

The oldest corner of my soul knows just how near,
The youngest learns that while I live,
Something of you lives on, as well.

What a charge, your living, and dying, and living again!
Do you have the least idea what wealth you’ve wrapped me in?
(I think you do.)

The last thing you ever said was, “I love you.”


*photo credit: Frank Gibson

20 Responses to “March 14”

  1. Joy says:

    How beautiful. What a wonderful legacy your father has left you.

  2. Beautiful poetry. Your father would be proud. He will always be The Grandmaster of Bocce.


    Joanne and Matt Flournoy

  3. Dahna says:

    Lanier, this is such a beautiful tribute to your father❤️

  4. Jody says:

    So touching. Brought me to tears. I can so relate to the lines about being afraid after your father is gone.

  5. ” wealth you wrapped me in”– my heart leapt.

  6. Wendy says:

    …’You should be flinging out the great largesse of your laugh,
    Making all within earshot as rich as kings”…. yes, we were the blessed recipients of
    his generous and larger-than-life love xx

  7. Rachelle Rea says:

    So beautiful, Lanier. Thank you for sharing. I am sorry for your loss but grateful for the words.

  8. Josie Ray says:

    You sweetheart. You blessed one. How beautiful.

    • Josie Ray says:

      An understated reaction, though. I was actually stunned at the beautiful close-up photos, and the depth of meaning, love, and sensitive precision of expression. Mourning with you, and holding you up in prayer.

      A little breeze-fresh Grayson this morning, apropos of nothing…except peace:

      “Lifting off thought after thought I know well where my joy is: in things still and scenes quiet, in days like these in May in our own valley, in my bees, in my orchard, in the thrushes and catbirds I hear singing, in the flash of a bluebird’s wing. These I love: these quiet my soul.” (David Grayson, The Countryman’s Year)

      • Josie Ray says:

        “Reading a life of Goethe. He was a morning worker–‘skimming the cream off the day and using the rest of the time for cheese making.’ An excellent system.” (David Grayson, The Countryman’s Year)

        Bye for now…there’s a refreshing cool breeze coming through the window, blowing the oak leaves in swirls around the daffodils, overcast sky, silver-rippled lake…it is a reading morning and the cream of the day: David Grayson, Sigurd Olson…and a little of Leo the Great. May God bless and keep us.

  9. Jim Bird says:

    My Dad left this Saturday March 12. He was 93 and so much that you shared in your incredible poem echoes how I feel. Thanks for sharing; your words have reached out to me for sure!

  10. Josie Ray says:

    (“I’ve learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.” –Spurgeon)

  11. Amy says:

    Lanier….what a beautiful tapestry of woven words….there is much I would like to say…. but won’t….my father has been gone from me seven months now….how IS that possible…..prayers for restored peace of mind…and for all of us here who have lost our beloved anchors…..

  12. Esther says:

    This is beautiful, Lanier. Thank you for sharing it.

  13. Lara says:

    11 years for me this March 29, since my daddy went to heaven on his birthday. I still miss him so. This is beautiful, Lanier–so much resonates. And what a gorgeous photo! Looking forward to rejoicing!

  14. Diane says:

    Lanier: In the midst of tears, rejoicing with you that you will one day be reunited with your father in Jesus’ presence………never to be apart again! Such a loving tribute you voiced!

  15. angeljoy says:

    …”You should be ripping through the grand tall tale of your life,
    Braver than a boar hog,
    Stronger than a new rope,
    Wild as a buck,
    Light-hearted as a summer sky.”…

    Such a lovely tribute to your daddy!

    You have a gift of bringing out the beauty of grief. I never conceived that there was such a thing until I read this precious poem.

  16. Marie Therese says:

    Losing papá is so difficult, even when we know they are out of suffering and with the Father. Six years for me and it still seems like yesterday.

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