Yesterday, I was truly grateful and privileged to participate in Rachel’s memorial service, and to be surrounded by her friends and family. I was grateful that three other sisters in our blogosphere were able to be there with me — Sarah Horton, of Being Sarah; Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues; and Stacey, of Bringing Up Goliath. I was grateful for the tears, love, stories, laughter and sheer gratitude expressed by so many for having her in our lives. I was grateful to be able to speak about her, too, in my turn. Her husband, her beloved Anthony, kindly shared this link to some photos of Rachel throughout her too-short but amazing life: Rachel’s life in pictures.
Today, for now, my own words have run dry, but they will come again. All week, I’ve had poetry in my head, as so many of us have had and shared. And in particular, two of my favorite poems by Marge Piercy seem so aptly to describe the Rachel we all knew and valued and loved. I’d like to share them.
The first, To be of use:
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
The second, an excerpt from For Strong Women:
[...]A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.
A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.
What comforts her is others loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make