River of Grief
by William Brown

Editor's Note: William Brown sent in his poem River of Grief with a note to say that it was written immediately after his first reading of Percy Shelley's poem To William Shelley, so it seems only appropriate to first let you read Shelley's poem and then read Brown's poem:

To William Shelley
(written for his son William who died at the age of three)
by Percy Shelley

My lost William, thou in whom
Some bright spirit lived, and did
That decaying robe consume
Which its lustre faintly hid,
Here its ashes find a tomb,
But beneath this pyramid
Thou art not-if a thing divine
Like thee can die, thy funeral shrine
Is thy mothers grief and mine

Where art thou, my gentle child?
Let me think thy spirit feeds,
With its life intense and mild,
The love of living leaves and weeds,
Among these tombs and ruins wild;-
Let me think that through low seeds
Of sweet flowers and sunny grass,
Into their hues and scents may pass
A portion.....

River of Grief
by William Brown

I tremble with awe at being so beautifully, so agonizingly
connected with the endless river of grief; its waters ...

rising long before 3-year-old William Shelley's
father and mother wept over his ashes,

splashing into the valley of the shadow of my own 18-year-old Elizabeth's
death ...
washing over me and all Grieving Parents of this time ...

(knowing that billions of the very same water molecules
which then spilled from William's parents’ eyes
also now spill from Elizabeth's parents’ eyes)

cascading on and on ...
flowing into a
too-vast ocean of grief from
too many past, present and future
too-young deaths,

recycling perpetually, until at last,
our sun inevitably grows into a red giant,

and the Earth, with all her inhabitants,
burns in the final, flaming funeral pyre ...
incinerating into one unifying, communal ball of ash,

and the river, with all her tears of grief,
boils in the final, hissing cauldron ...
evaporating into one unifying, communal cloud of steam.


Bill Brown's daughter, Elizabeth (4/17/78 - 8/17/96), was killed in an auto accident, in Claremont, CA, due to speeding and driver distraction. He and Elizabeth's mother forgave the young driver, and welcomed him at Elizabeth's memorial service in Albuquerque, NM. Forgiveness has made all the difference.

Bill's careers: mathematics educator, automation engineer/manager, and now studying to become a grief counselor. He participate actively as a leader in The Compassionate Friends and in an email support group, Grieving Parents. Bill find's writing poetry to be very therapeutic.


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