for Jack Heil.

photo(4)

it would seem that there are not too many threads
between you and I

your exit came nineteen years before my arrival
and I have only a few snapshots
in the stark black and white
of the postwar years
when you married my grandmother
and held my mother on your lap
in a white tank top
with a St. Christopher medal around your neck
and a bottle of Imperial in her tiny hands

and I have only a few stories
of how you traveled for work
and how the six kids would pile in the car
to drive old highway 99 to the airport
and see you off
back in the day when you walked across the tarmac
and up the stairs
if you needed to take a plane

of how you were at a convention in Florida for work
with my Grandmother
and there was a sitter for the kids back home
and the last night you sat with her on the beach
and watched the waves
and the next day, she took one flight
and you took another
and you did not come home

of how your death tore a hole in your family
and how your widow stitched it together as best as she knew how
and your children healed in their own ways
and they grew with the scars.

Some scars never heal,
some are open even now,
fifty years later.
Your grandchildren have seen them.
We grew up bathed in the echoes
of what seemed to us a distant tragedy
and so you are part of our lives
and now we are trying to fathom
which part
that is.

so I have a few photos
and a few stories
and tonight, it occurs to me that I have something else
I am your granddaughter
I am one-fourth you.
I do not know which parts of me come from you
but it cannot be denied
that we are connected in ways
that are timeless and unknowable

and I have your headstone
and I visit it sometimes
with cedar boughs or incense
sometimes I bring you coffee
and your great-grandson,
and I wonder what you would tell me
if you could
speak
now

“maybe death
isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us–”

― Mary Oliver

In memory of all those lost on Northwest Orient Flight 705

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6 Comments

Filed under basic goodness, Change, death, Family, fathoming, History, love, meditation, memory, Mothers, poetry, stories

6 responses to “for Jack Heil.

  1. ellen lang

    Sarah, in recent months your poetry has touched me as only good art can. Your gift is a joy that reaches far beyond your pen. With love and pride,
    Aunt Ellie

  2. Marian Trebon

    Death is not
    extinguishing
    the Light.
    It is putting out
    the Lamp
    Because the Dawn
    has come.
    Tagore
    Sarah, thank you for your beautiful tribute to your Grandpa Jack. This 50th anniversary of his death is a very poignant time for me. I trust he is resting in eternal peace and joy and is completely happy! That gives me peace and joy!
    Love,
    Grandma

  3. Thank you. From the bottom, top, and sides of my heart. Thank you. With tremendous love, m/t

  4. Pingback: To Grandpa Jack…. http://wordpress.com/#!/read/following/ | Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 705

  5. Trina

    Lovely Sarah. You capture many feelings that I share about a man who I know little about but have always felt is an important part of our story.

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