When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Luke 4:13 (NRSV)

I had a bad day last Friday–the three week mark of my mother’s death. What surprised me was the suddenness and the force with which the sadness hit me. It was totally unexpected. I imagine myself as someone who is equipped to deal with these bouts of grief, given how frequently others share their grief with me. I have been trained to look for signs and indications of how others are coping and how they’re progressing. But none of this training was focused on myself, or perhaps I didn’t pay attention in class the day that was covered. In view of that experience, I am now at least aware that I will again experience that “dark night of the soul” at some point in the future. It will be interesting to see how I deal with it.

Anyway, I came upon this poem by one of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson, which captures somewhat the way I have become observant of grief, both my own and others.

I measure every grief…

I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.

I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.

I wonder if when years have piled–
Some thousands–on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;

Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.

The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies,–
Death is but one and comes but once
And only nails the eyes.

There’s grief of want, and grief of cold,–
A sort they call ‘despair,’
There’s banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.

And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,

To note the fashions of the cross
Of those that stand alone
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own.

– Emily Dickinson

I miss you, Mom.

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