Thursday, May 30, 2019

Funeral Flowers: A TeenVoice Post

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.
~Beth Saadati

Funeral Flowers
by Jonathan Miesse

I ponder your
first-day-of-high-school picture.
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
even then?
I suppose
your hesitant smile
might hide secrets.

Your arms wrap around
your mother.
Her ashen jacket contrasts
with the sunny scene
like the mourner she will become.
Your mother’s
eyes are still young,
her face not yet worn
by tears that still arrive
since the day you chose

If only you hadn’t
let go.
If only you’d held
your mother forever.

The roses crowd nearer.
They look like they’re holding
their breath.

Jonathan Miesse is a typical teen who enjoys soccer, piano, and sleeping in really long on the weekends. He values the power of writing as a lifelong tool for expressing universal pains and joys. He loves his church, his family, and Lake Michigan. His motto is ‘function over appearance.’


  1. As a mom who has read my daughters final note, I am crushed, elated, humbled, and lifted up. Thank you Jonathan.

    1. I'm truly sorry to hear about your daughter and the irreplaceable loss you grieve. Thank you for your willingness to share this. Jonathan's words deeply resonated with me too.

  2. Wow. How powerfully you caught the moments--the questions unanswered.

    1. I agree, Marcia. That's exactly how I felt when I read what Jonathan had written.