I don't do well at funerals. Or weddings either for that matter. And that is why this week has been particularly hard for me.
My young niece married the love of her life eighteen months ago. Her husband had cystic fibrosis, and much of their life together had been spent in hospitals or hotel rooms waiting to be in hospitals. They met online, their mutual love of music and reading drawing them together. Their wedding was beautiful, the first of my father's eight granddaughters to get married. This in and of itself was emotional--seeing my brother walk his daughter down the aisle--none of us was prepared for the mixed feelings we had.
Her husband had a double lung transplant right before they got married, buying some time, but last week he died. Thirty-three years old, and though the end had been written a long time ago, it was very difficult to accept that his life was over.
The funeral was personal, as personal as any I've attended. I have to say, though, that I was totally blown away when my niece stood up, and with only a few quivers in her voice, read the following poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay:
Dirge without Music
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.
The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
That girl has a courage and composure built of love. There isn't anything stronger.