Saturday, December 8, 2007

"I am not resigned..."

I've just started researching prisoner recidivism (serving more than one prison sentence) for a possible article. It introduces me to a world I know little about--the justice system with its many branches, including victim assistance.

At the library I came across a handbook called Working with Grieving Children After Violent Death: A Guidebook for Crime Victim Assistance Professionals.
I checked it out because I lost a parent to a violent death (suicide) five years ago this month, and when you lose a parent, no matter your age, you are a child.

The book didn't say much I didn't already know, but I still welcome reminders of the obvious:
that violent death compounds grief,
that the duration of grief after traumatic deaths may be extended for years--even five or ten years is not unusual.

Most welcome, though, was a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay in the appendix. I thought I'd read all the standard biggies of death poems, but I had missed this one.
It's not perfect--not all the qualities of the dead are quite so nice as the ones Millay lists; but she captures perfectly the irrational refusal to assent to death or to be consoled by sentiment.
I'm copying it out here:

"Dirge Without Music"
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,––but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.


For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

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