Julia Ann Thompson: 6th anniversary of loss

Each year since Julia’s death in a car crash, August 16, 2004 is a day to pause to remember her in a special way. Here’s what I said for Julia’s fifth anniversary. Each year changes my relationship to this date.

The last poem of “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” is “Anniversary.” You can listen to it on the audio book “Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music.” Just scroll down and click. The poem begins like this:


August 16, 2005
Julia’s one year anniversary.
You’ve been in the world of my ancestors for a year now.
Six years older, you always went before me.
Then, last year, 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.

A year. How can that be?
I woke up a year ago:
Not knowing
my life was about to be changed forever.
Not knowing
this date would be carved in flesh and blood.
How innocent I was that morning.
That morning when I woke up,
not knowing…

To learn more about my sister Julia A. Thompson on Riehlife type her name in the search box at the top of the home page on the right.

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  1. Janet:
    Thank you for sharing this poem with us, with others who struggle with loss. Your wisdom of looking back, of not knowing that your “life was about to be changed forever” is powerful and touches many.


  2. Dear Matilda,

    Thank you for your affirming comment. Julia’s loss was a great loss to the world as well as to her family and friends. Her physics discoveries and her peace & social justice work left lasting benefits.

    In death, though, all losses and all grief’s are equal There are many layers of grief and each of us grieves in our own way. Towards the end of “Anniversary” are these thoughts:

    “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.”

    All the best,

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