Interstitial Moment:

Today (March 22nd) is the fourth anniversary of my husband’s death. David and I met when we were both out of college, he a year, me a newly-minted alum. We had both gone to New York City, he after a year of teaching math at Wheeling College in West Virginia, come to the city to get a job with IBM in the first group of programmers to work on Fortran. I to get a job in publishing.

We met cute (as they say in the movies), in the summer of 1960, and two years later were married. September 2, 1962.

Though we were both busy people, often on the road in different directions, it was a wonderful marriage, we had three bright, talented children, and were 44 years legally wed and the first two not legal but just as important, 46 years altogether. He got to see all six of his grandchildren. One was even named after him.

And then he died. On March 22, 2006, he (quite literally) turned his face to the wall, slipped into a semi-coma, and died while son Adam played “Jamie Across the Water” on the guitar, a piece David had requested for his funeral, and while I held his hand whispering, “Go across the water if you must, my love.” The early spring birds were singing outside, piped in by a microphone that his friends at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology had hooked up for him, and that was a comfort on his journey as well.

So today it was raining after a week of explosive birdsong and a false early spring. That seemed appropriate. I sat by myself in the living room, lit three candles, drank a cup of tea, and talked to his pictures. Daughter Heidi says it is only a problem if the pictures talk back. Snark runs deep in the DNA of Yolen women.

Did it make me feel better? To be honest, only having him return would feel that way though having been deeply scarred by “The Monkey’s Paw” as a child reader, I would never wish for that. Or at least I wouldn’t make that bargain. But it made me feel a bit peaceful and a bit resigned and a bit nostalgic and a bit weepy. But mostly I felt a deep peace.

I, too, will some day go across the water. Will be there be someone waiting for me there? I have never been that sort of a believer. But if there is, it had better be David. He was always the best guide and companion on trips.


The cancer had turned my tall, strong, marching-up-mountains husband who was–in the admiring words of his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews “The man who knew everything” into a shrunken, probably blind, thinned down ghost. But he could do one last thing. And he did it. He willed himself to go across the water.

I wrote this poem for him among many others in the years after he left.

Grief Is Not

Grief is not getting easier,

But becoming more ordinary,

As if I’ve always carried this stone in my breast,

Calling it a heart.

Grief is not going away,

Just not arriving in tsunami force.

Rather it’s a steady high tide,

Which makes me wonder about the rocks below.

Grief is not a one-time thing,

Not several days, weeks, months,

But is a visitor who has moved in for good,

And occasionally helps out around the house.

Grief is not unwelcome here,

For it reminds me of how much I have lost,

And how blessed I was

To have so much to lose.

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