I am Erin. I’m James’ wife, Pat’s daughter-in-law. I’m here to read a poem.
Pat, when she got this diagnosis, of course, sat down and put everything to square and picked out her hymns and specified the wishes for her funeral because that’s who she was. She was much more at peace I think than the rest of us.
I’ve never really gotten over the shock.
I don’t have a reflection. My daughters, they’re too devastated to come, but one of them asked me to tell the leopard story.
A couple of years ago Pat and Eric were taking the girls out for breakfast so that James and I could get the house ready for a showing. It was winter and they were trying to get the kids into their mittens. We could not find mittens for Nora and suggested that we check Nora’s backpack. She was six. She’s a tiny little mathematician.
Out of her backpack came thirteen single mittens, most knitted by Pat, but not a single pair.
Pat said, “How can this be? What are the odds?”
Nora, of course, immediately starts working on her fingers to figure out what the odds would be.
I said, “You know, I think they’re like the socks. I think they go to live with Jesus.”
Pat said, “I guess he must need them for all of the lepers.”
Nora said, “Ah, that’s right because we are missing 12 mittens and any leopard would need four mittens so we are missing mittens for three leopards.”
Pat looked at her and said, “You’re so good at math.”
Nora said, “Why does Jesus need leopards?”
She was the grandparent who would tell Nora that she was good at math and not school her for losing 13 individually hand-knitted mittens.
My children and the family will miss her very, very much.
In the order of service this says that it’s Pat’s poem. It’s not Pat’s poem. It’s my poem but it was her favorite. She was the proof reader for this book and for everything else that I wrote.
I was not sure which poem to read to you because she didn’t specify and there were a few that she liked, but I was reading … James and Eric gave me the diary that she kept when she was ill to read.
It begins with something labeled day one and it begins, to my great surprise:
“I am dying.”
That piece ends, “There’s so much I will lose, the beauty of the Earth and of the skies and the flowers.”, so I thought she would like this poem.
It’s called “While the Earth Remains”. It’s the Revelations poem from my book of biblical poetry. It’s hard for me to get through so be patient.
While the Earth Remains
While the Earth remains, seedtime and harvest-time, cold and heat. Summer and winter, day and night shall not cease. - Genesis 8:22 (God's promise to us after the flood)
Let there always be taxol and chamomile,
abnormal pap smears and little shirts
with red snaps. Let there be trout with ginger
and green tea in the evenings.
Let there be months with nothing
but mac and cheese.
Let there be days when waking
is a heavy weight, a thickness
breathed in. Let there be weeks
together like this, weeks of sourness,
then on clean dawn in frost, the lawns smoking.
Let there be ticks in the saskatoons.
The one who picked the saskatoons with me
one summer far from either of our lives
writes to say she cannot write or speak.
Let there be a lamp for her,
lasting oil, a little salt. Blessings.
Equinox today, and the fall is coming.
Juniper dusty blue with berry, sumac
brushing. The tattered cherry
blooms again, a few bright blossoms.
Is that hope or hopelessness? The fruit
will never set. The flocks grow restless.
On this day the year is hinged
like a door. Let there always be
the gates of morning, the gates of evening.
Wheels. All creatures walking.
Let every thing take its right name;
rice and paper, salt and beans. Let dust
remember skin, or does it? Let dust
film everything. Oh Lord, what comes
between us? Dust and thirst,
a lack of patience. Shyness.
There’s skin at least, a secret
I don’t know I’m keeping. What name
does it have? Shame or Eden.
While the Earth remains let there be spareness,
winter with one hawk and no hiding.
Let there be Junes jam-packed , chock-a-bloc, thick
with berries. Let all the graves have names.
Let us pray indifferently, pray in fear
and whispers. Let us pray and be blasted
open. Let there be garlic and chili
and cream for the coffee, the salty
and sour, the sweet and the bitter, the desperate
and dappled, the morning
and evening, the over
and over, the first day.