Elegies – A Repost

I felt like an intruder as I backed my car into the high grass.  A red van and a white car followed me into the parking lot and then passed me, rubbernecking to look at me.  I stared down at my hands on the steering wheel while they passed and thought about leaving, but the almost magnetic force that had brought me there wouldn’t let me leave.

I wore black that day.  Ironic.  Appropriate. 

Third row.  Next to the one that says, “Matthews.” 

I glanced into the distance and could just make out the red van and white car in the back corner of the property.  I wanted to be alone.  Completely alone.  And when I could see that I was, I stepped into the mid-July heat and tentatively crossed the driveway to walk among the stones.

One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Matthews.

Just past the Matthews’ family should have been his stone.  Instead, coarse grass struggled to grow over the seven-week-old grave.  A rusted wire stand held a formerly white bouquet of weather-beaten silk carnations next to his head.  A weary-looking fake rose bush sat lop-sided at his feet.  I reached down into the faded red blooms and held them aside so that I could see his name.  For just a moment, I thought that maybe it had all been a bad dream, but then, I spotted it: James C. Davis, Sr.  And I had lost him all over again.

The 2 o’clock sun baked into my black blouse and soaked into my black sandals.  There was something right about feeling physical pain while I stood looking down on my uncle’s grave.  I felt the sweat running down my back, but it seemed to make sense while there were tears streaming down my face.  The day that my family had been there, I had cried dainty tears– the politically correct kind that say, “my Great Uncle is in a better place now and I will adjust because life goes on.”  But on this day, by myself, there was no place for dainty tears– only wracking sobs that could only be translated as, “he wasn’t just my Great Uncle, he was my friend and was special to me, but now he’s gone and he’s not coming back.”

I knew that Uncle Jimmy wasn’t at that graveyard and that he couldn’t hear my words, but I knew that God was there and so I couldn’t help saying them anyway.

“Uncle Jimmy, I had to come visit you.  We were in Beaufort last week and I wanted to stop at your house, but I knew you weren’t there.  They tell me Aunt Daph is doing good–staying busy–with lots of calls and visitors.  I’m sorry I haven’t called her.  I’ve been working long hours and out of the country.  And…  I miss you.  I miss you a lot.  Did you know that after Grandmama and Granddaddy, I loved you the most?  You were the most special.  And I know that you can’t hear me, but maybe Jesus can tell you that I miss you and that I love you.  And that I miss Grandmama and Granddaddy and that I love them, too.”

Tears and snot dripped down my face and disappeared into the tiny polka dots of my black shirt.  I heard the red van and white car driving slowly back down the driveway of the cemetery, but my back was to them, so I didn’t bother to wipe my face.  When I’d heard them make the turn out onto the main road, I dragged my hands across my face and then let the tears drip off my fingers onto the grave.

“‘Bye, Uncle Jimmy.”  And I was gone.

Death isn’t a new thing to me.  I’ve been to many visitations and funerals in my life.  I’m usually the one that’s silently passing Kleenex to anyone with red eyes or pouring coffee or holding babies.  I never felt a need to grieve over loss because I could get through it by being the strong, supportive one.  When the services were over and the food was put away and the thank you notes were mailed, I could return to my life and pretend that nothing had happened. 

I’ll never forget the one observant pastor who came up to me after my Granddaddy’s funeral and said, “Sarah, I’ve been watching you.  You’ve been very strong and your Grandfather would be so proud of you.  Now, stop it.  Cry!”  He put his arms around me, put my head on his shoulder, and patted my back.  But at that moment, the shock and hilarity of his expecting me to cry on command trumped any grief I felt.  I simply pulled away, smiled, and walked away shaking my head.  But his words chipped a hole in my armor and I’ve never been the same.

As the special people in my life leave this world for the next one, it hurts more with each loss.  I’m keeping more Kleenex for myself than I’m giving out to others.  I’ve stopped pretending that it doesn’t hurt.  And while life does go on, I’ve also given myself permission to remember.

Incidently, I’m not a big fan of poetry–reading it or writing it.  I have a small handful of poems that I’m just wild about, but on the whole, I just don’t prefer it.  But I did write a poem remembering my Granddaddy.  And since I’ve written prose (this blog) to remember Uncle Jimmy, I don’t guess I’ll write him a poem.  But for Granddaddy, here’s my elegy:

On that Monday morning in late October,

as I changed diapers and

spooned oatmeal into children’s mouths,

a phone call divided my life in two–

life with you and life without you.


Mama wept,

Daddy told me that your heart betrayed you–

gave you no choice.

I threw the phone across the room

and watched it crash onto the floor.


Your funeral was my stellar theatrical performance.

I marched into the sanctuary, dry face raised

and sat like a stone among your other grandchildren

with unused Kleenex crumpled in my hand,

a blank expression on my face.


At home, the phone still rings,

The car breaks down,

The pots boil over on the stove,

The world moves although you do not.


It’s impossible to forget

as I walk through your house.

I still see your bare feet

and hear your whistle

with the expectation

that you’ll walk into the room

reclaim your recliner from

its current occupant.


The house has slowly been wiped of your fingerprints.

The closet only holds one person’s clothes.

The bathroom only houses one toothbrush.

And though your pictures watch us like framed, paper angels

from their posts on the walls,

it is not the same.

The post is a repost from last summer, but I felt today was the right day to rerun it. The last couple of days, I’ve been praying for my friend, Duane Scott, as his grandma lies in a coma, close to eternity. Also, my Dad called with the sad news that our friend (and distant relative) Pastor Johnnie Lupton went to be with Jesus this week. Please pray for my friend, Duane, as he faces his deep loss and for Johnnie’s wife, Bernice, who is also bed-ridden with the same Cancer that just took her husband.

I look forward to Heaven, where there are no tears and no goodbyes.

About Sarah Salter


  1. Well put Sarah. As a pastor I cannot tell you how many times I have held back tears because “it is what I have to do” only to cry later. The professional took over. When my father-in-law died I did his funeral and then went out for a drive and wept like a baby. When my mother died I did the same. I still think of them, and while I no longer cry, I feel a sadness in my heart. But I also know they are with Jesus and I will someday see them and know no tears. I pray for you to find rest. I have also prayed for Duane.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Bill, God planted me in the middle of NC, three hours away from where my family is from. But my uncle that I wrote about in today’s post married a lady from this area and so his grave is quite close to me. And in a lot of ways, it has been healing to have Uncle Jimmy’s grave so close. My handful of visits there have helped me to mentally and emotionally process not just his passing, but the emotions I never processed over losing other loved ones. I know Uncle Jimmy’s not really there. I’m thankful for it. But his grave being there and my being able to visit it & talk to God there has really given me closure. God’s just good. Thanks for coming by and sharing!

  3. Great post, Sarah. I’m not one to enjoy many poems either. But yours is beautiful.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you, Ginny!

  5. That was beautiful. I haven’t cried yet. I don’t like to. But I will remember that it is necessary as I face these coming days. Thanks for being such a great friend.

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Duane- People process pain and emotions differently. I’m not saying you HAVE to cry. Just don’t be afraid to. It’s really very therapeutic. Jesus wept, too. Just remember that you’re loved and you never cry alone… even when it feels like it.

  7. Dacia Bryan says:

    Okay, so that’s the last time I read your posts in a public place! All these little old ladies are trying to figure out why I’m crying over my cell phone! That poem hit very close to home for me…and yes, it is BEAUTIFUL poetry! You should write more. Thanks for sharing Sarah!

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    Oh, Dacia! I wish I was there to hug you! But I’ll tell you what I told Duane… You’re loved and you never cry alone… even when it feels like it.

  9. My tears now are not nice and neat, but sloppy and wild.

    You’ve touched my heart again Sarah!

  10. Sarah Salter says:

    Karin, I pray that the Lord will comfort and heal your heart. Bless you!

  11. I cry at the craziest things…

    My grandfather died…no tears.
    My great grandmother passed…no tears.
    My dad abandoned my mom…no tears.

    Children coming to Christ – I bawl.
    Families living a life of commitment to each other – I sob.
    Rocky wins in the end – I lose it.
    The Mighty Ducks shoot the winning point – I cry.
    A needy family is ministered too – yep that too….

    I cry in exhaustion and fear… So far, I have not cried in loss even though I have missed people terribly. Some have told me it is because I have left so much behind in life that I am accustomed to the separation. Maybe that is so… Any way I am rambling this morning to avoid work…

  12. Sarah Salter says:

    Dusty, for nearly twenty years, I barely cried at all. So, for the last decade or more I’ve been making up for it. I cry at EVERYTHING. Commercials. Muzak. Anything can get me started. And often, crying will make me laugh because I’ll laugh at myself for crying at something so ridiculous! I love crying now. I find it very therapeutic. Thanks for rambling around here this morning. 🙂

  13. I am more and more convinced that grieving is of very great importance. That may include tears many times, but either way, find a way to grieve the losses. Loved ones, disappointments, relationships, lost promotion, lost job, wayward child, whatever. We grieve but we grieve with hope. We can’t just “get over it” until we truly and honestly grieve.

    Great thoughts as usual. Thanks Sarah.

  14. I think perhaps we can only feel so much at once.
    Today, on my way back from seeing my psychiatrist (i take antidepressants)
    i was thinking (he always gets me thinking) about all the horrible, or just
    plain bad and sad stuff in life every day, and
    if we were to really take all of it in without any help that comes
    through others, or being able to see hope or goodness, then
    no one would last very long. So, i am thinking, what was i thinking… oh
    yes, it is amazing that we are not crying all of the time, and thank God
    for giving us a sense of humor, and friends, and helpers, and encouragers,
    and mostly for His grace, mercy and His Love.

  15. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, there’s so much truth in what you said that I can’t even process it all… Thanks for challenging my thoughts all over again. (You’re good at that.) And thanks for coming by!

  16. Sarah Salter says:

    Nancy, you’re absolutely right. The problem (for me and for many others) comes when everytime we feel something uncomfortable, we run away and don’t deal with it. For me, death (especially of loved ones) used to be one of these things that I couldn’t deal with. But slowly… slowly… slowly… I’m learning. Thanks for your openness here!

  17. “reclaim your recliner” was an unexpected smile. There’s something about your articulation of the everyday that is very important to grasping the fact that a loved one is “no more.” thankyou for you tangible words. I have always loved your voice. Amy

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