The small intentional acts of care

Has it ever, quite, in our collective memory been so delightfully, communally legible (also legible in so many difficult ways) how much we need each other, how much well-being is — far from being an individually-achieved product of individual virtue — a function of relationship, of connection — and, indeed, of our willingness to own up to our vulnerability? When my mom was sick (with terminal brain cancer), my dearest friends held me up — mowing my lawn, making me food, packing my suitcase when I needed to but couldn’t, washing my dishes (thanks Denise, Jessica, Greg, Bryan). I was young — in my early 20s — but I learned something I haven’t forgotten: a little bit of good, the small intentional acts of care we perform, can outweigh a lot of bad — a lot of unintentional (glioblastoma multiforme) but also intentional (relational) harm — at the spirit level. The scales that weigh our lives are sensitive to the gravitas of suffering and loss, yes, and always will be. But: love outweighs sorrow. It has a core density that accrues and stays and outlasts.

Last night, a dear friend of mine wrote and asked me to record a poem of mine for her to listen to. I flipped through my last collection, wondering what to read for her to listen to, what words to send right now. I landed on a poem that is light relative to most of the poems in that book, a collection largely about death and divorce (I know: I’m a lot of fun). The poem is called “Friendship.” I wrote it after taking a short break from visiting my mom in palliative care to go camping for a couple of nights on the ocean along the sunshine coast with my best friend, whose care and company in those days while mom was dying saved me, repeatedly, and continue to save me, even now (thanks, Janine). Love lasts. The gifts we give each other do not pass away.

Here, then, are two small gifts, for these difficult days: 1) audio of me reading a poem from my second collection:

and–because delight never hurts:

2) my daughter, when she was only 4, singing a few lines from Simon & Garfunkel’s “Old Friends.”

Stay well, friends.

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