The Grief Episode

This episode was difficult for me to record. Several times throughout, I had to stop, breathe, and collect myself before resuming. The point is, grief may not have an ending point. I’ve learned that that’s OK. I hope through listening to this episode, you’ll realize that, too. Especially in the Christian community, we have a tendency to think that it’s OK to grieve — but only for a time. After that time has lapsed, we better be better. If we’re not, sometimes the message to us is that our faith isn’t strong enough. If we really believed that we have eternal life and that we’ll see our loved ones again, why would we continue to grieve?

And yet we do.

Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Red Weather Christians: “S2E9: The Grief Episode”

dinner plans

when my mom was 
dying 
you wanted to 
meet up 
with me 
for dinner
I was late
I was late
because I was on a walk
with my mom
I didn't cut the walk
short
so I could be 
on time
with you
you were so mad
at me
for being late
we argued and
if I had to do it
again
I wouldn't
I'd turn around
and leave
and then that time
would be with
my mom
not you
because you are a 
thief
you stole time from
me and
my mom and
I'm mad
I'm mad maybe
I'll never stop being mad
my mom and I
would have had
a lovely dinner together
at home instead she ate
alone
that night
I might never forgive you

you apologized ten years
later but it was
ten years too late and
ten words too late and
I've been thinking that
maybe you feel at peace
now
now that you've said your words
and good for you
but I can't get my time
back and
I'm mad that I didn't
leave
because mom left
she's gone
she's still
and you
you're still sorrying
and I'm 
done giving you time
time for me to turn
around
and leave
bye
bye
I'm
gone.

Listen: The Grief Episode

101

You said that
the rats come in your dreams
after your sister died
the rats come in your dreams
difficult to sleep dreaming the dreams
of naked tails
difficult to wake to a day
knowing the night 
brings beady eyes

I seem to remember 
Orwell's Winston's biggest fear being
trapped with rats
with no escape
in room 101
and one
fear
is all it takes to trap
you in your dreams
every night never
anywhere but 101
locked no light
but brown bodies
a moving floor of fur
for you your
dreams don't 
let you leave this life your
dreams don't
let you lean on her your
sister
or kiss her
"do you miss me? come and kiss me."
one last time
the time with her is
all used up
a cup poured out

now night comes 

and I’d come too but
my 101 is the next room
down the hall a 
wall 
between us
not filled with rats 
but rants of people
disappointed in me
I can't see 
you
but I'm here
I'll knock twice
on our wall
to say

I'm here!
(knock! knock!)
our fears
won't seem so 
bad I'm
down the hall with just a 
wall 
between us.

Dad

It doesn't seem that long ago
that every day
you'd lace your boots
every day
you'd wear your boots
no matter the event
you'd wear your boots
you didn't care
Christmas day or
playing chess or
fixing cars or
walking to the park
with me

you'd wear your boots
rhythms of tightening laces
face concentrated wrapping
laces around metal eyelet hooks
you were hooked
every morning edge of bed
you said
you'd wear your boots
until your boots wore out
and out and about you went
in boots
years later
years later after sole replacements
new laces
living room spaces designated for
buffing and shining and moisturizing
the leather 
protection from weather
you cared for those boots

years later you'd wear the boots
for the last time
the last time I talked to you
about boots you said
shaking your head
as you set down the torn and warped boots
that you couldn't get 
that quality anymore
stores didn't sell boots
that lasted
you asked if
I knew of any 
I didn't

but yesterday I went to a 
boot shop
leather boots
     hanging
zig
     zagging
on
     one 
wall

and       bookshelves
of    boots    on    the
other    swaths      of
leathers all different

colors 
draping from a 
lazy susan hanging 
from
the 
ceiling
feeling oddly at home
as the shopkeeper outlined
my bare foot 
on a piece of white paper

the piece of white paper
that outlined the program
of your memorial
makes me wonder if you're wearing
your boots
in heaven
are they the ones you always wore
that you loved
or are they new from the shop
built from swaths of leathers
all different colors
shopkeeper outlining your foot
on a piece of white paper

me on earth
and you in heaven
me and you we're wearin'
our boots.

Listen: The Grief Episode

murder

I fall asleep
dreaming of poetry
words lined like lemmings one by one marching off the cliff
tumbling
to
terrible
deaths
but my words march off lines
black words
on
white page
tumbling
into
life

because that's what we poets do
poets do
but for a long time
my words
lined like lemmings
died too
I'd thought
I was only a possible poet
I wrote it
those words
on lines
keeping time
maybe rhyme
but into the bin they went
sent to certain death next to an oily tuna can
I killed those words
I chose that
I murdered
words they're
dead

I fall asleep
dreaming of dead poetry
and wonder about words
whether I can
bring dead words
to life
I find
peace, though
in letting them go so

I write new words
black words
on
white page
tumbling
into
life.

Mama

I wore pearl earrings today
you would have
approved of the pearls
you always
loved your pearls perhaps
they were symbolic
for you
growing up
one of thirteen
I've been thinking
about that
how it must have 
been hard
to
stand out
to
stand tall
so as soon as
you could
(you could)
you got out
and bought
heels and
pearl earrings 
and you
stood tall

I wore pearl earrings today
and anyway I
really just wanted to say
that I love you
I miss you
I hope you
are wearing pearl earrings
in heaven.

Listen: The Grief Episode

skinned knee

A self-proclaimed 
"not-huggy" person
I realized this morning
as I sipped
hot coffee
that I'd really like
a hug
from my dad then
I cried
he died
so I can't
have that I sat
with
hot coffee
and thought
(we only children
are good at that)

I remember as a child
when I'd skin my knee
I'd only need a hug
a big bear hug
not a hollow
not-really-touching
but tapping
my shoulder blades
with your hands
hug

those are for purity-ring-wearing
Christian college kids and
I've done
my time
with them
I'm done
with hollow hugs
I follow my thoughts
back to when
I Decided I That I Don't Hug
and it wasn't hugs
I didn't like

it was the hollowness
empty space
between us
saccharine kindness
sucralose of love
fake
but tasted sweet
I don't want that
and I'm afraid
afraid I've skinned my knee again
and I need
a hug.

Caesura

I'm forgetting things
like
the term for when
there's a period
or a dash
or a semicolon
in the middle
of a line -- of poetry

I try and the word has
slipped
down
in
between 
the
folds
of
my
memories
and I try
I
say sure I
can do this
I've taught if for
years
15 years
and I try
I 
say sure a 
little jolt and I'll know it
only one little word
but that one little word
has gone

I'm forgetting things
like
what it's like to
have coffee with you to
send a quick text to you to
tell you some stupid
trivial thing thoughts
like these I have
but I don't remember
what it's like

Caesura is the term
I've remembered 
but remembering
has not brought peace because
the term for
the break
in the line --  of poetry
reminds me of
the break
in the line --  of your life
and for the life
of me
I can't forget the feeling
of thick grief
gray-white fog
it has settled in
down 
in
between
the
folds
of 
my
memories

I'm forgetting things
and when I forget things
about you
I can't google
"the poetic term for a break in the middle of a line of poetry"
there's nothing to search
there's nothing to find
but I'm trying don't want to give up
I'm desperate and lonely and
I want to remember
remember what it's like
to have coffee
to text
to dial your number
and say -- what's the word?
Mom

Listen: The Grief Episode

taking it back

taking it back
to my 6th grade class
and I was still a Steed
a boy named Jeremy
I think
died from cancer
the answer 
the school gave
was to hold a service
a remembrance
for Jeremy
and me I didn't go
I didn't go but I stayed 
in the classroom 
and took a study hall
I couldn't bear to haul 
myself to that service because before
he died
he was a 
total
jerk
a mean
and spiteful
person
and I
I didn't go to the service
people said it was
a mean
thing to do 
and spiteful
but I didn't go to the service
it would be disingenuous
and my name was 
Jen and being genuine was what
I wanted to do

and maybe that's what
you wanted to do
too
when five years later you wrote on the 
bathroom wall
Jen Steed is a fucking bitch
and that situation 
made me start
to think
to think about
who wouldn't go to my service

I
do not go gentle through this good life
and strife seems to find me
always has
but maybe it has always been me
me who has invited it in
to have a cup of hot coffee
me
I do that

When I yelled at Alisa in 5th grade to
Go faster on the monkey bars
you're too slow!
she invited the entire class to her birthday everyone
except me

In 7th grade I made
a couple cool girls 
Jessica
Danielle
so mad
they paid a sad 
boy named 
Danny
to pants me
to pants me in the middle of the quad

And in 11th grade the
writing was on the wall
you wanted to call
me out
and I
I don't think if I died
you'd go to my service 
because what purpose
would it serve is
maybe the question you'd ask
and I'd add
that I didn't go to Jeremy's service
either
and whether 
or not
you've forgiven me
for whatever it was I did
if I died before I said
I'm sorry 
I'm sorry

I take it back

but whoever you are
who marred 
that bathroom wall
that wake-up call
was what I needed
My name was Jen Steed and
I didn't go to the service
and I bet you won't go 
to mine
either.

everyone goes

hey
dad
it's been a 
minute
but I wanted to
talk about heaven
with you
and I think you're
there right now sitting on your lawn chair drinking hot coffee

I wanted to
talk about heaven
with you
and tell you that
I'm sorry
for all the times you told me
Everyone goes to heaven
and I 
scoffed
because I knew
I knew
you didn't understand
how
the 
gospel
works
you called me a princess
but it was an attack
and I hated you for it
but now looking back
I now can see
how that's
exactly
what 
I
was

I was a spoiled princess
How Dare you Defy Me Dad
Don't You Know I Know
more
than
you
about
life

you told me everyone goes to
heaven
how could a god allow people to
go
to
hell
how could he do that
and why
and I
scoffed
the royal princess that I was
and why should I listen
to someone who wakes waiting
to drink
every
day

I was so much better than that
but now I think I'd like to
talk about heaven
with you
and say
I'm 39
and not a day
goes by
that I don't think of you
and I don't think of you
in hell
but how you have a lawn-chair seat in heaven

and when we
talk about heaven
I want to tell you
that I wish I would have
been a better daughter
later after you died
I tried
I tried
I tried to understand your 
pain
in life
your pain
I think you numbed
you'd sink into
grayed and fuzzed and cotton-muffled brain

but we're talking about heaven
and I want to say
that even though you couldn't stay
to make your heaven
here
on
earth
you've got it now
and now
I know that
I 
don't 
know
all the things I thought
I knew
and you
and you are sitting on your
lawn chair
drinking coffee
restful and content
so proud of me
(you were always so proud of me)
I wish I could have been proud 
of you

but it came too late you couldn't wait
to leave
you 
could 
not
cancer decided
you
did 
not

so hey 
dad
it's been a
minute
but I wanted to 
talk about heaven 
with you
and tell you
that I am doing what I can
to make my heaven
here
on
earth
and when I drink
hot coffee
I think 
of you
of you
of how proud
I am
of you.

Listen: The Grief Episode