Cold Comforts Set Between Us

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The Cross of Snow

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face- the face of one long dead-
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died; and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books  be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow on its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.


I can’t imagine the increased sorrows and difficulties that COVID has created for those mourning the deaths of loved ones, regardless of cause.  Celebrating life and mourning the death of friends and family is supposed to be an expression of family and community unity, not something we do remote.   We hug, we cry, we eat, we talk, we share, we sit silently together.   October is the anniversary of my Mother’s birthday and internment of her ashes.  This blog arouse out of me processing the one year anniversary of that event and using poetry as a salve for the hurt of mourning.

October is a month of harvest and senescence, living things withering, dying, decaying, recycling the contents of their living cells and nutrients back to the soil, in preparation for new life next spring. The vibrant colors of this year’s leaves in Minnesota are a reminder of the inherent beauty in the cycle of life all around us.  Even the end of the cycle of life.

When All The Others Were Away At Mass

by Seamus Heaney (1939 – 2013)

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives—
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.