Friday, January 09, 2015

She's Just Away

A dear friend of mine, Elyse, passed away this week.

Wow, that's hard to write. It makes it seem more real, somehow. Living three hours away from her, it's much nicer to pretend it's not true.

She had a brain tumor. She learned of it 10 years ago, right after her youngest child was born. It was inoperable, and she went through a lot of chemo and other treatments to try to get rid of it, or at least keep it under control. It finally got the best of her physical form, but her spirit never wavered.

She was such a beautiful soul. She had an amazing smile, and it was always peeking out of her eyes. She was a homeschooling mama of five, and I wonder what they will do without her? I remember her telling me that people often advised her to put her children in school, but she kept them home, because she didn't know how much time she had and she didn't want to miss any of it with them.

She was one of the first friends I made who introduced me to Charlotte Mason. She told me she wished she had been educated with Mason's principles, and wanted to be sure her children were. She led book clubs and taught other people, because she believed passionately in a living education.

I want to share a poem with you. It's called "Away" by James Whitcomb Riley. I saw bits of it on headstones at the cemetery in Old Salem, on the graves of men I would guess were soldiers killed during World War II.

I cannot say, and I will not say
That he is dead–. He is just away!

With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand
He has wandered into an unknown land,

And left us dreaming how very fair
It needs must be, since he lingers there.

And you– O you, who the wildest yearn
For the old-time step and the glad return–,

Think of him faring on, as dear
In the love of There as the love of Here;

And loyal still, as he gave the blows
Of his warrior-strength to his country's foes–.

Mild and gentle, as he was brave–,
When the sweetest love of his life he gave

To simple things–: Where the violets grew
Blue as the eyes they were likened to,

The touches of his hands have strayed
As reverently as his lips have prayed:

When the little brown thrush that harshly chirred
Was dear to him as the mocking-bird;

And he pitied as much as a man in pain
A writhing honey-bee wet with rain–.

Think of him still as the same, I say:
He is not dead– he is just away!

-James Whitcomb Riley

The first three stanzas bring Elyse to my mind, particularly the bit about the cheerful smile and wave. In my mind's eye, I see her beautiful, mysterious smile, eyes lit with joy as she sees heaven waiting, and she lifts her hand to wave as she steps beyond the veil. I know I will see her again, but in the meantime, I will miss her so very much. She is not dead–she's just away–and I know heaven rejoices in having her, for surely she is as dear there as she was here. Farewell, my friend. 

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