Friday, August 10, 2012

Sweeping up the Heart

This summer has been a time of mourning.  I've physically attended five funerals, and my heart has been at others. Many of these deaths were out-of-sequence--a beloved baby, moms in their prime.....

Several just made no sense at all.

That's death, isn't it?

One of the ladies who passed away was famous for saying, "You never have to do anything but die."

She's right. (Which, of course, she knew!) But the knowledge doesn't make acceptance easier.

My mother told me that Emily Dickinson's poem had been going through her head lately.  I didn't remember it, so I looked it up.

Dickinson's faith has always impressed me as it resonates through her poetry--and through the years.

I'm not sure if the poem is a comfort. I don't know any of the losses where the family and friends are willing to "put(ting) love away" until later.  To the contrary, I'm witnessing it grow and connect with others.

But grief often appreciates someone else who understands the feeling. In this poem, there is certainly company in "sweeping up the heart" that has been shattered.

The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth, --

The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.
--Emily Dickinson 

My deepest condolences to all who mourn.


  1. If the measure of great literature is that it raises more questions than it answers, Dickinson was a genius. Her poems can take us in so many directions, and this one is no exception. I think a key to understanding this poem--to the extent that any of her poems can be understood--lies in the line "The morning after death." I'm no psychologist, but perhaps a common initial reaction to death is to protect our shattered hearts, to"[put]love away" so as not to hurt any more than necessary. But maybe as we adjust to and accept the loss, we can allow our hearts to once again reach out to others and to love them and accept their love. I agree with you that Dickinson's faith resonates in the poem. She ultimately offers hope and comfort in the idea that at some point there will be a reunion with the departed,and it will last for eternity.

    So sorry for the losses you've experienced this summer. Your heart must truly be hurting.

    1. Dee Dee, you're such a good English teacher! Thank you. Any pain I have is from watching those I care about suffer. I feel blessed, but my heart breaks for others.