celebrating beauty

I recently listened to parts one and two of “A Celebration of Beauty” from the Circe Institute‘s 2003 conference of that same title. Andrew Kern was the speaker and he spoke of his mother dying of cancer and of how, even in death, we find beauty. Death and beauty are not things we tend to put together very often. Death is ugly in many ways. We don’t like it or want it, but it is a part of our existence. For the Christian death is no less worrisome on one level, for Christians are as human as anyone, but on another level death is not so troubling. As Kern spoke I was reminded of my grandmother’s passing and the poem I wrote in remembrance of her. My grandmother was someone who loved beauty. She was a Christian who knew that death was not so much an end as a beginning. Her name was Lily, which is also the name of my eldest child.


The slight curve
of an otherwise flat sea
plumb line of time
was your vision
Oil paints and
Japanese floats
your talismans
sacred promises
your great hope

I am thinking of you Lily
I am thinking of the beautiful
mystery of you
and of the world
you made
And I am thinking
of the boy that was me
and old cracked sidewalks
and green apples
and blue rooms
and pool tables
I am thinking
of basement treasures
and ice cream
and Thanksgiving holidays
under your bed
watching color tv
I remember Olive Street
and station wagons
I danced in your house
climbed into cherry trees
played with cousins
falling exhausted
on the livingroom floor
I learned the history of my father
and of his father
I heard stories of great uncles
living the West with big chests
I learned the wonder of nature
always changing
always awesome
And I knew I was
a part of history
descending like leaves
to the ground of time

And you were
always there

You saw the world
daughter of Beaumont
traveler in beauty
wife and lover
mother and giver
You saw the world
with an eternal heart
and infinite eyes
You knew this world
would never hold you
You were ready for death
not from resignation
but an unfathomable longing

You knew
what you were giving up
your flowers
the seasons
the green valley
and verdant hills
the birds at the
backyard feeder
the squirrels and
rainy days
the joys of your children
and their children
your collection
of yellowing photographs
the memories
of your old friends
the daily reminders of
your old creaking joints
your frail and bruised body
your failing health
your history

You knew
none of it would last
And you were right

I brought you your husband
wheeled him to your bed
I stood there
amongst the family’s
outpouring of love
as you whispered
your goodbyes
holding bony hands
speaking secret codes
123 I love you
and the silent space
between your eyes
two souls
speaking out six decades
with fear
and trembling
and joy
a feast I have yet to eat

I was there
beside your bed of pain
and your incoherent moans
watching your simple
agony gestures
watching your pleading brow
watching your God
severing you from
this earth
your dying body
a poem in the dust
giving you up
I was there
helpless before
my own destiny
weak and frightened
a bystander
a witness
a grandson
a saint

It rained the day we buried you
a soft bittersweet rain
But you were already far away
already becoming memory
You could not stay
I knew that
You soul was too big
a caged bird calling
to the sky
a flower
too beautiful
for words

white and pure
you shine
in golden light
in purest love
your goal
finally reached
your hope
come true
your dreams
and now only
the kingdom
and the rest of us
waiting to join you



  1. >"You were ready for deathnot from resignationbut an unfathomable longing"I used to be seriously freaked out about death, and in a way, I still am by the mystery of it. However, the older I get, the more life I experience and see, even with all its intricate beauty, the more I long for eternity "where every tear shall be wiped away." Amen.

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