I remember an exercise in school in which you would write a eulogy to yourself in order to think about what you contribute to the world as a person and what you think of yourself. Or things that you should probably work on. It was an interesting exercise but it didn’t prepare me in any way for having to write words for my own 3-year old daughter. She had just learned how to write her own name; the pens and crayons she would use were so awkwardly large and top-heavy in her tiny fingers. Yet here I was putting my own words down, trying to sum up her short life on a shorter yet page. The pen seemed just as heavy.
What an impact she had. It was a challenge to not ramble on for hours though I wanted to. I could have shared stories of the words she would mispronounce, or how those same words were even more jumbled after her front three teeth had to be removed. How she would always pretend to be a dragon or a monster and chase other kids around roaring while trying to hold in a barrage of giggles that you could tell were just waiting at the tip of her tongue to spill out. How she always try and jump and run with the bigger kids we were around even though she was so much smaller and just a hair slower. She had an uncanny ability to find joy in the little things, and I desperately wish I could have those moments back if just to be able to appreciate her love of things.
When I spoke at her funeral I recited a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks which I was instantly drawn to the first time I read it. Like I said that day and still feel now, I always thought I could relate to the child in the poem until Lily. Now I realize it wasn’t a poem for me, but her.
Life for my child is simple, and is good.
He knows his wish. Yes, but that is not all.
Because I know mine too.
And we both want joy of undeep and unabiding things,
Like Kicking over a chair or throwing blocks out of a window
Or tipping over an icebox pan
Or snatching down curtains or fingering an electric outlet
Or a journey or a friend or an illegal kiss.
No. There is more to it than that.
It is that he has never been afraid.
Rather, he reaches out and lo the chiar falls with a beautiful crash
And the blocks fall, down on the people’s heads,
And the water comes slooshing sloopily out across the floor.
And so forth.
Not that success, for him, is sure, infallible.
But never has he been afraid to reach.
His lesions are legion.
But reaching is his rule.