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Re–post: Dear Abby poem, a letter from those beyond . . .

The letter that follows below is from my original posting dated November 25, 2009, entitled Dear Abby poem, a letter from beyond . . . Click here to read the original post. I am re–posting it now for the benefit of a recent subscriber to my blog, a nephew, the first of two sons born to my sister. His mother was the penultimate—the second to the last—family member to shuffle off this mortal coil. I am the ultimate, the last of seven children born to our mother and father and the last one still standing.

The poem below appeared in the San Antonio, Texas Express-News daily on Sunday, July 11, 1993, in Dear Abby’s column. It’s a moving message from one and all that, as voiced by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, have shuffled off this mortal coil, and is for us a solemn reminder of our own mortality.

These are the words of Hamlet:

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause.

Several years after her husband died, I sent this letter to my sister:

July 11, 1993

Dear Sis,

It’s Sunday morning here and I just finished wading my way through the Sunday issue of San Antonio’s Express-News. This poem was in Dear Abby. I know it’s very sad, and I know it won’t be easy for you to read. But I’ve read it over and over and I found that, at least for me, it becomes more uplifting and less sad with each reading. It was untitled, so I guess we are supposed to furnish our own title.

Nice touch, that. We can simply leave it untitled, or we can dedicate it to someone or something we’ve loved and lost, whether it be a person or pet or place or idea. Or we can title it We are not dead and attribute the poem to be from all those we’ve loved and lost.

Whether the voice of one or the voices of all, and regardless of the title, the poem must give us pause:

Do not stand at my grave and weep;

I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow;

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain;

I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awake in the morning’s hush,

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft star that shines at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there. I did not die.

In the seven months since I posted the poem it has garnered ten votes, all excellent, but no viewer has taken the time to post a comment. I realize that many of us, perhaps most, are reluctant to focus our thoughts on those that are no longer with us, but when they are in our thoughts they are not dead—they live, if only for a brief moment, and the finest tribute we can pay is to never forget—always remember.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!


 
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Posted by on June 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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A shaggy dog story . . .

My mother remarried when I was nine years old, and for the next six years, for varying periods of time I had the privilege of living under the auspices of a stepfather. Those periods varied because several times during those years, for one reason or another, he banished his new family to other pastures. I suspect that each time he had accumulated enough of a grubstake to make it on his own for awhile without having three millstones around his neck, namely a wife and two children, he would precipitate a ruckus that would drive us away, in one instance a ruckus that included these remarks:

“Come on back to the house, kids, I won’t hurt you,” a sentence shouted from the front porch to the two children standing out in the road, poised to run. That supplication was followed by a louder and very sinister shout. He said very forcefully, “I’m going to get my shotgun,” and with that exclamation he disappeared into the house and the two kids disappeared down the road. That was the only time my sister ever managed to outrun me—she managed that by running so fast that she kicked up gravel in my face—yes, Virginia, it was a graveled road. I may possibly be exaggerating a bit, but only a bit—that she outran me is factual—I can neither explain nor deny it. We ran a short distance on the road alongside a pasture to a point where the woods began, then plunged into the forest and hid in the bushes and the underbrush.

And now I will leave my legions of viewers in suspense, undoubtedly wondering what started the fracas and how that episode turned out. I’ll finish that story in another posting because it was not the original subject for this posting, my shaggy dog story.

This is how it began:

My stepfather mandated that everyone in the family be gainfully employed, a mandatory requirement that extended to animals. He allowed no pets—no cats on the hearth and no lapdogs—he felt that if an animal did no work it was not entitled to be fed, and that included human animals. He would feed and groom, and if necessary medicate, a working dog but only as long as it produced. If a watchdog didn’t bark to ward off intruders, it shortly disappeared, ostensibly a runaway. If a hunting dog slacked off noticeably in its production of game, whether rabbit dog, squirrel dog or bird dog, that dog would also disappear and be labeled a runaway.

I have a memory, one dear to my heart and closely held, of a particularly lovely autumn day in the sovereign state of Mississippi. On that day I went squirrel hunting with my stepfather. We were accompanied by a small black-and-white female Cocker Spaniel named Lady, a beautiful little dog my stepfather had borrowed from a fellow hunter. The dog’s owner claimed that Lady was the finest squirrel dog in the state and perhaps the finest in the entire nation. At my stepfather’s request, the owner left her at our house some weeks before the scheduled hunt, and my stepfather courted her religiously during that period—he petted her and groomed her and hand-fed her, constantly assuring me that Lady, or any dog, would work best for a person they loved and trusted.

From this point on, the posting will be brief and brutal . . .

We entered the woods with Lady and began the hunt. For those not versed in the intricacies of squirrel hunting with a squirrel dog, the dog is trained to range far and wide through the woods to pick up the scent of a squirrel on the ground, then follow that trail to whatever tree the squirrel has ascended, and bark furiously until the hunter arrives and blasts the squirrel out of the tree. Our little hunter, however,  stayed right at our feet, so close that we had to walk carefully to avoid stepping on her, and she completely ignoring my stepfather’s exhortations to, “Hunt—hunt, damn it, hunt!”

He finally spotted a gray squirrel running along a high branch, and when it stopped to check us out my stepfather downed it with a blast from his 16-guage Browning, and with that roar our squirrel dog disappeared—we never saw her again. We tramped the woods for hours, but no amount of calling, whistling and cussing (that’s southern for cursing) could bring her back. The calling and whistling soon tapered off, but the cussing went on for an interminable length of time.

I was not privy to whatever agreement my stepfather reached with the dog’s owner, but armed with the knowledge that owners of great squirrel dogs take great pride in the dog and therefore sometimes place an inordinate value on it, I suspect that my stepfather paid handsomely for not returning Lady to her rightful owner.

That’s my shaggy dog story, and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2010 in Humor

 

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Dear Abby poem, a letter from those beyond . . .

The lines that follow were excerpted from Hamlet’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s play:

To die, to sleep, to sleep,| perchance to dream;
Aye, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death,
what dreams may come

when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause.

The poem below appeared in the San Antonio, Texas Express-News on Sunday, July 11, 1993, in Dear Abby’s column. It’s a moving message from one and all who, as voiced by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, have shuffled off this mortal coil, and it is for us a solemn reminder of our own mortality. My sister’s husband had recently died and I included the poem in a letter.

This is the letter I sent to my sister following the death of her husband:

July 11, 1993

Dear Sis,

It’s Sunday morning here and I just finished wading my way through the Sunday issue of San Antonio’s Express-News. This poem was in Dear Abby. I know it’s very sad, and I know it won’t be easy for you to read. But I’ve read it over and over and I found that, at least for me, it became more uplifting and less sad with each reading. It was untitled, so I guess we are supposed to furnish our own title.

Nice touch, that. We can simply leave it untitled, or we can dedicate it to someone or something we’ve loved and lost, whether it be a person or pet or place or dream. We can title it I am not dead and accept it as being the voice of one we’ve loved and lost, or we can title it We are not dead and accept it as being the voices of all those we’ve loved and lost. Whether the voice of one or the voices of all, and regardless of the title the poem, in the words of Hamlet, must give us pause.

I choose to entitle the poem as the voice of one we’ve loved and lost:

I am not dead

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awake in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Re: Dear Abby—the following biographical sketch was extracted from Wikipedia:

Pauline Phillips (born July 4, 1918 as Pauline “Popo” Esther Friedman) is an advice columnist and radio show host who founded the “Dear Abby” column in 1956. The current Dear Abby is her first-born child and only daughter, Jeanne Phillips, who now writes under the pen name of Abigail Van Buren, which was also used by Pauline. She also has a son, Edward Jay Phillips.

Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips was an identical twin; her sister, Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer, wrote the Ann Landers column until her death from multiple myeloma in 2002, at age 83. As children, the two grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and went by the nicknames “Popo” and “Eppie,” respectively. Both are alumnae of Morningside College and both wrote for the college newspaper. They were so close then that they had a joint wedding in 1939 when both women were 21 years old. They were both Jewish.


 
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Posted by on November 15, 2009 in death, Family, newspapers

 

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