I struggled with the idea of writing something to read at Milo’s funeral. I had never been able to speak at a funeral, even my father’s. I always feared tears would overwhelm me and erase anything I might be trying to say. My husband’s urgings just served to make me more anxious. “I can’t write under pressure! I’m not a Hallmark writer. I work to an inner rhythm”.
I wanted to write something for her, for my step-daughter, my daughter, whom I came to love and admire after over 40 years. The step-daughter who was 5 years older than my first child and forced me to parent her before I was ready. When she hit puberty and needed guidance, I was still dealing with my son’s childhood issues, baseball, summer camp, and public school. Scrambling, I did buy her first bra, bought books explaining the ‘facts of life’ and tried to offer what help I could since she lived with her mother in Toronto and only spent alternate weekends and some holidays with us.
Over the five days in Edmonton I worked on a poem using random notes I had written on the plane. I didn’t know where I was going with it but I knew I wanted it to be a tribute to her strengths. By the night before the funeral, I wasn’t happy with the ending and felt unsure about reading it. Then I realized that was symbolic for all that had happened. I wasn’t happy with her life ending prematurely either. So I read it as is. Perhaps I will tweak it further. Perhaps not.
Milo, named for an actress you never knew,
You trekked your bumpy way
Into our lives, our hearts.
Resilient, smiling, resolute,
You navigated two worlds,
Careful never to misstep
The line between country and city.
From school to school, then college.
On to parenthood before we knew it.
Dark years left behind
Out shadowed by baby light,
Travel, another child,
The petite daughter to complete your family,
Submerged in happy domesticity.
More years of turmoil:
You made choices to survive,
Protect your chicks,
Rise above sorrow, grief,
Your mother’s passing.
Seven years in South Dakota brightened life,
Happiness broke through in snatches.
Back to Alberta, familiar ground
Where you lost and found love.
All the while a mother,
The finest of mothers.
We grieve now with your children,
Raised and ready
To catch that cold north wind,
Change it into honeyed breezes.
With thoughts of you:
We grieve with the love that appeared,
The one who slipped in,
Grabbed you unawares,
Not knowing you had so little time.
We grieve as parents,
Our daughter lost,
Not meant to outlive our children.
Copyright © 2010, Ruth Zaryski Jackson