Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

My Sister Julia Ann Thompson’s Third Year Anniversary: In the world of our ancestors (excerpt from “Anniversary” poem by Janet Grace Riehl)

Last year we gathered together and I presented a special event for Hayner Public Library in Alton, Illinois. I gave a talk combined with music (Daddy and I played) and poetry followed by a workshop on memory. You can read this talk "Memories: Each Day Radiant with New Meaning" by clicking here which will take you to another section of Riehlife.

This year we're meeting up at the Jerseyville Cemetery to gather around the new marker on my mother's grave, think of both my mother and sister, and then go out for Chinese food, which mother loved.



August 16, 2007
Julia’s third year anniversary.
You’ve been in the world of our ancestors for three years now.
Six years older, you always went before me.
Then, a triplet of years ago, you passed through.
I can’t say “passed on.”
No. You’ll never pass on.
You’re too fierce and present for that.

You passed over the waters in the famous boat.
Probably rowed it yourself.
Come on, confess. Didn’t you?
Said to the helmsman.
“Sit down, take a rest.
Let me take over for a little while.
You look like you haven’t slept in a million years.”
And, while you were at it, redesigned the boat
for greater comfort and speed.
Sewed some new boat cushions on the way over,
in-between oar-strokes.
Then, docked, stepped out on that far shore.
Claimed it as your own.

*** *** *** *** ****

Last year and this, my electronic Glimpse of the Day tells me:
“Bereavement can force you to look at your life directly,
compelling you to find a purpose in it
where there may not have been one before.
When suddenly you find yourself alone
after the death of someone you love,
it can feel as if you are being given a new life
and are being asked:
What will you do with this life?
And why do you wish to continue living?
Pray for help and strength and grace.
Pray that you will survive and discover
the richest possible meaning
to the new life you now find yourself in.
Be vulnerable and receptive.
Be courageous and patient.
Above all, look into your life
to find ways of sharing your love
more deeply with others now.”

*** *** *** ***

My journey and my family’s journey of bereavement continues
as the moon waxes towards fullness.
Thank heavens the stars are up there in the sky,
“all secret and wise twinkling down” . . .
as we, breathing, look up
at the moon.

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  1. Janet, just as your sister passed over from shore to shore on that famous boat, you are doing well three years into your journey of bereavement. American culture thinks three years should mean grieving is over and done with. But for those of us who have lost someone we know it's no time at all, don't we. Go well on your continuing journey.

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