A few days ago, I was going through a box of memories, and came across “When Great Trees Fall” by Maya Angelou.

When Jim died, a friend gave me the gift of this poem. It came in the mail, enclosed in a beautiful card that said, “I saw this poem and thought of you, and of Jim.” It meant a lot to me, for it acknowledges the deep pain felt by anyone grieving someone they love, while also offering hope of eventual healing in the last stanza.

I love that she shows grief isn’t linear and that there is no timetable with “..after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly.” And also the knowing that love lives on in our hearts, and we always carry them inside of us. She writes: “We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.”

What a comfort and a gift this is!

 

When Great Trees Fall

by Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,Maya Angelou when great trees fall
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

 


Debbie Augenthaler is a psychotherapist and author of You Are Not Alone: A Heartfelt Guide to Grief, Healing, and Hope. You can learn more about her and the book here.


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