My godsister Deborah La Rue White Alaba died recently. Her loss was unexpected and emotionally shocking. I wrote this poem for a neighbor who spoke at her funeral.
On the Loss of Someone Who Was Like a Daughter
for Mrs. Rae Nell Simmons at the passing of Deborah Alaba
by Mildred Lewis c. 2012
There will be no ticker tape parade of guests
bearing casseroles or condolence cards
or white carnations.
But the quick, chilling realization that
Water can grow thick and cling like blood.
That blood congeals, stops flowing and grows tacky.
While water rushes forward, taking pieces of your heart,
The way a small drip can gouge out canyon-like crevices.
Your breath catches short.
The natural order of things has been reversed.
You’d hoped that she would sit on that first row at your time with your other daughters
with their arms wrapped around each other.
Her back would be crumpled. Her eyes would glisten.
And her outfit would have something, anything of your style.
That made you smile: a small imprint of the immortality of love and chosen affections.
You took pleasure of thinking of yourself gone with that silent testimonial of a great love.
Our language of words doesn’t have a good way to describe binding ties, voluntarily taken, happily borne.
Fictive kin is a term for anthropologists. Not a way to describe a daughter brought to you from another womb.
Your breath catches short again. You choke down a sob to comfort the other, real mother. To keep kith and kin from worry.
Another brick in the tomb of grief that gradually erases us, lightly remarked but deeply felt, sinking us back to deepest earth.