Sometime after dad died, snatches of this poem caught my memory:

It ís the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.

Those are two lines from “Spring and Fall” by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I wish I remembered more of the poetry I studied in college, but maybe it will come back to me. This poem addresses a young girl, Margaret, who mourns the coming of Autumn and the dying leaves. The end carries a sting, telling Margaret that it is really her own death, foreshadowed in the changing season, that she mourns.

Now no matter, child, the name:

Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.

It is Margaret you mourn for.

Dad’s death forced me to confront that death will come to everyone I love. I can no longer pretend it doesn’t exist, or that it comes with a warning label giving you many years’ notice. Sorrow’s springs are all the same, and I’ve had my first long drink. But I can’t pretend all my sorrow is for the ones who are gone. My sadness turns inward as I think of what will never be again, of words I will never hear. (Like dad’s habitual 4th of July greeting: “Damn the British.”) I mourn for a version of myself that will never exist: a young mom showing her dad his first grandchild.

I started this blog as a reminder to bar the door against despair. But it knocks sometimes when I think that, no matter how young, we are all waiting to die.


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