Friday, March 5, 2010

My Dear Sister Jane

Jane Elizabeth Gardner-Duffany
February 3, 1958-March 4, 2010

Jane died peacefully last night, with a few of the many who loved her by her side. When we were talking about her funeral and what poems she would like read, I suggested the following, and after I had read it to her, her only comment was that she didn't like ships, so we will not be reading this, but it brings me comfort.

Gone From My Sight
by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone"

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

And that is dying..

The poem Jane chose to be read is written by Mary Oliver, a Vermont poet. Jane, in her typical Jane fashion, told me that I could not read the poem at the funeral, the implication being that I would prefer a shopping center to a field. And while I will admit that am quite fond of shopping, I would much prefer a pond. Silly Jane.

What Was Once the Largest Shopping Center in Northern Ohio Was Built Where There Had Been a Pond I Used to Visit Every Summer Afternoon
by Mary Oliver

Loving the earth, seeing what has been done to it,
I grow sharp, I grow cold.

Where will the trilliums go, and the coltsfoot?
Where will the pond lilies go to continue living
their simple, penniless lives, lifting
their faces of gold?

Impossible to believe we need so much
as the world wants us to buy.
I have more clothes, lamps, dishes, paper clips
than I could possibly use before I die.

Oh, I would like to live in an empty house,
with vines for walls, and a carpet of grass.
No planks, no plastic, no fiberglass.

And I suppose sometime I will.
Old and cold I will lie apart
from all this buying and selling, with only
the beautiful earth in my heart.


  1. My thoughts are with you. I love Mary Oliver, and read a poem she wrote at both my mother's and sister's funerals, but I like the ship poem better. I will surely save a copy. When will you get home?

  2. Hi Susan, Thank you. I think I will be going home next Thursday. The memorial service is on Wednesday, so that makes sense, I think. It will be good to get home, but I am glad that I could be here all this time to be with Jane and her family.