Three years ago today, I lost a dear friend - Kristin Petrie Rocha - to cancer. After a prolonged battle with breast cancer, she passed away at the all-too-young age of 47. I wrote this poem for her shortly after she died.
As we welcome in a New Year with prayers for good heath, happiness and a global shift towards better days, may we also remember those from our past who made life wonderful.
ODE TO A PEACH
There once was a girl we called Peach
Who didn’t live too far down the street.
She was short, this is true;
And her eyes, they were blue.
Indeed, she was one you wanted to meet.
From Martin Place in Manhasset she did hail.
Child of Pete and Rosemary.
Mo, Jeanne, Jim and Mike
Enhanced the delight
Of her tortured grammar school and teenage years.
We met as kids, not more than 5.
By 13, we hit our stride.
So much fun we did have,
Laughing endlessly, never mad,
Along with a few others, we became the Hen Pride.
Many years she lived in New York City.
Some nights were not too pretty.
Drunky Monkey arrived,
Made us all feel quite alive,
Although the next day we all felt pretty shi**y.
In the day, she was teacher extraordinaire,
Leading the kindergarteners with great flair.
Antics in her class
Made us all laugh.
You simply wished you were sitting right there.
Time marched on, our lives did weave
Different paths, off she would leave
With her love from the North
She found her stride, she walked forth
Selfishly, many did grieve.
Love and marriage brought two great kids;
Keegan and Emma, fixed on our grid.
Many smiles they did bring,
Along with laughter, and other things.
‘Twas a mother’s love that could never be hid.
Amongst these many great joys
She had too many an “Oy.”
Meeting challenges with grace,
She defied the whole human race
Battling cancer with the strength of a boy.
She left this earth entirely too soon
Making so many feel stranded on the moon.
The high road she did take,
Singularly, she did make
Many feel that they’d lost their tune.
In this life, you meet a few
Who are honest and loyal, too.
Friends like that are unique,
The kind of people you should seek
As they will always be tried and true.
You are sorely missed by many, Peach.
Until we meet again.
According to Random House Dictionary, the prefix “un” is defined as “giving negative or opposite force.” Adding this prefix to a noun or a verb, an adjective or an adverb, results in a meaning that is the reverse of its root.
Understanding the definition of this prefix, and in light of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, what “un” work would you use to describe this year to date?
I can think of a few. Let me start with unprecedented.
In our lifetimes, as a society, we have never been called to live the way we are living now. Because of this unimaginable pandemic, with the goal of slowing the spread of COVID-19, we have been asked to follow these almost untenable rules: stay home; wear masks in public; close unessential businesses; quarantine for two weeks if exposed to an infected individual; don’t congregate in groups.
It all seems so unreal.
Because of this confinement, because of this restriction on our liberties, because of the impact on our mental and fiscal welfare, people have protested. Most of these protests have proceeded peacefully. However, in the wake of peaceful demonstrations, unbelievable actions unrelated to the protest of our civil liberties have occurred. Businesses have been looted and destroyed; citizens have been injured; the uninformed and uncaring mob has ruled. Some have simply become unglued.
Undoubtedly, change is necessary. How we get there is the challenge.
Perhaps we can start down the better path if we changed our collective tone. What if we started using a few other “un” words? Here are a few that come to mind: united; union; unless; universal; understand. Below are a few excerpts from documents and speeches in which these words have been used:
Resolution of conflict requires careful navigation. Acting civilly and remaining open to dialogue is critical. New pathways will be constructed if, universally, we work to mend the rifts and repair what has been broken.
There is one more “un” word that I would add to this list. Mythical in its origin, its appearance in literature and lore is meant to evoke hope and joy, to shed light where darkness has fallen.
Perhaps the imagery associated with unicorns is just what we need right now.
I published Power of the Flowers for the first time in March 2017. For months leading up to the date on which the website went live, I read and I wrote and I gathered information I thought would be useful to others. From the moment I conceived of Power of the Flowers, not a day passed that I didn’t think about ways to present new material, or how to effectively convey constructive messages. Somewhere within me, as the idea took shape, an echo began. BSR – beauty, strength, resilience – reverberated consistently in my head. Even when people questioned me, when my goals were challenged, I kept pushing on.
Then, earlier this year, the echo faded.
It wasn’t one event that caused the echo to fade. Rather, it was a myriad of events that kept shushing my voice.
COVID-19 crossed our great oceans and landed on our shores. In droves, people fell ill. shush Schools closed temporarily in March. shush The nation shut down, as did the schools for the remainder of the spring term. shush We were told to stay home - - don’t go to work, don’t go to stores, don’t go out for a meal - - for a few days…for a month…for two months. shush Restrictions rose daily with the sun. Don’t wear a mask. shush Wear a mask. shush Wear gloves. shush Don’t wear gloves. shush Stay 6 feet apart. shush Wash your hands. shush Cough into your arm. shush Don’t visit the elderly. shush Don’t congregate. shush
Through the delivery of these messages, the fear gremlin crept out of the darkness. Having worked so hard to keep those fragile plates spinning on the top of those remarkably thin sticks, the loss of worldwide momentum caused each plate to come crashing down. Outside our front doors, the economy screeched to a halt. Jobs ran dry. People were laid off. Bills piled up. Stress mounted daily. Frustration boiled over and people acted out.
Historically, in circumstances raft with frustration, when the words on my lips have not been constructive, my brain has reasoned my mouth into silence. Some might say that I properly embraced the notion that “silence is golden.” However, not every moment of frustration requires silence. Not every moment of frustration triggers a poor thought process. In fact, I think we have reached the moment where silence is no longer golden. We have reached the moment when we need our words to reverberate loudly.
Translation of the Swiss German phrase “sprecfien ist silbern, schweigen ist golden” is attributed to English author Thomas Carlyle. Although the verbatim translation is “speech is silvern, silence is golden,” Carlyle thought the better translation was “speech is of time, silence is of eternity.”
Eternal silence will not trigger change. Eternal silence does not combat the fear gremlin and the powers that shush us. However, reasoned opinions stated clearly and loudly will trigger change.
I can already hear you. And, once again, I can hear myself.
Now, let’s make sure everyone else hears us.