We Are All Haiku

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We are all haiku—

Only here for seventeen

Syllables, three lines.

Sweeping Changes, Gary Thorp


I attended a memorial service for a friend this week. It was held at a Friends’ Meeting House and followed the Quaker model. There was no formal service; those present spoke when the spirit moved them.

At first, I found the lack of ceremony vaguely dissatisfying, as I have found Quaker and Unitarian services. Most likely my Roman Catholic and Episcopalian experience has infused in me an unsubstantiated conviction that it really doesn’t count if ritual is missing. But as I sat there in silence, I came to appreciate this outwardly simple form, that it can lead, if you allow it, to an inner exploration that can sometimes be obstructed by organs, trumpets and incense.

My friend was not religious, so references to God and “in a better place” were missing. I found this consoling, those present respecting, and perhaps sharing, her philosophy. I liked that.

She and I were relatively new friends; we met about five years ago. I knew her only after tragedy had visited her, and found her stoic, accepting, brave in carrying on a life with a major void in it. She smiled often, but I never saw her laugh, not really. So I was gratified to see pictures of her in an earlier time, arms around her daughter, both wearing wide grins. I looked hard at that picture, and saw my friend, before.

Old friends spoke of her enthusiasm, her risk-taking, her love of fun. What a gift that was to me, to know that she had experienced joy. I will remember her with different eyes now.

In her life, she showed me courage, stoicism, a wry wit, laced with truth and a profound personal honesty. And it is these characteristics that I will model. She faced death with that same honesty, and knew when to say goodbye.

The world has lost a gifted poet, and an old soul. But we are better for her years with us.