I’ll confess. Sometimes I inwardly cringe when I hear the question (especially when it comes from complete strangers who email or hand me their work) that, as an English teacher and writer, I’ve been asked thousands of times: “Would you like to read what I’ve written?”
“Of course,” I normally answer, regardless of whether I really have extra time.
The standard reply I gave my 17-year-old nephew, however, was 100 percent sincere. I’d never seen his writing. I was curious. Best of all, since he lived several states away and wasn’t my student, I could set aside my red pen and simply enjoy his work with no obligation to critique, grade, or give feedback.
Without expectation, I nestled into a quilt and opened his St. Joseph High School college-writing class binder. I began to read, awed and delighted by the content, craft mastery, and word choices on the typed pages. An hour in, however, I paused. Tears fell. This can’t be, I thought. It happened six years ago. I’m reading too much into this.
The next day I asked; Jonathan confirmed my suspicions. He’d written the poem about his oldest cousin, my oldest daughter. Jonathan's powerfully transparent words, emailed during his drive home to Michigan, deserve to be heard:
“Every time I visit South Carolina, in the midst of all the family and good food and fun, I think of Jenna and how much better it would be with her here.
I have so many great memories of games, plays, and conversations about books that I had with Jenna. She always spoke to me like I wasn't just a silly elementary kid. Love and respect defined who she was.
She was the best cousin and friend I could ever imagine. So, it was really hard to write the poem “Funeral Flowers.” I wrote it by myself in silence. Although I cried as I finished it, I was happy because it communicates the ache I feel.
I think we all share a longing for the way things used to be—a longing that will someday make our joy incomprehensible when Jesus makes all things right. But for now, I hope other people know that, in their pain, they’re not alone.”
Please stay. Hope remains.
by Jonathan Miesse
I ponder your
Hair flows off your shoulders
to rest on a light blue backpack.
Yellow and pink roses
fill the background,
the morning sun illuminating
their glorious life.
But I stare into your easy gaze
wondering how we never saw through it.
Did you know
your hesitant smile
might hide secrets.
Your arms wrap around
Her ashen jacket contrasts
with the sunny scene
like the mourner she will become.
eyes are still young,
her face not yet worn
by tears that still arrive
since the day you chose
If only you hadn’t
If only you’d held
your mother forever.
The roses crowd nearer.
They look like they’re holding