A senior moment: About loss

By Danna Downing

I had the privilege of attending the 8th Annual Tournament of Writers, sponsored by the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center, where I heard Mark Giacobone, a winner in the Senior Division, read the following poem, printed with his permission below:

I’m Losing

I look at the scoreboard and I see I’m not winning,
No longer a rookie, I’m in my ninth inning.

I step up to the plate, it’s my turn to bat,
Grim Reaper is pitching and he’s knocking me flat.

Each time his fast ball is skillfully hurled,
Someone I love is leaving this world.

A swing and a miss from a curve ball deployed,
I’m losing my friends, I’m being destroyed.

I steal all the bases, I slide into home,
I stand up and I find I’m standing alone.

I can’t find my teammates, I don’t see the fans,
They’re not on the field and they’re not in the stands.

I kneel in the rain under heavy grey skies,
The dugouts are flooding and so are my eyes.

The vendors are leaving, and the loudspeakers fade,
A moment of silence for those who have played.

What a beautiful piece of writing and what a gift he gives us all!

Loss is inevitable and begins at birth when we lose the safety of the womb to be born into this amazing world. As we grow older, we get plenty of practice losing the people and pets we love, as well as the giant and anonymous losses that occur with pandemics, mass shootings and war. It weighs heavy on our hearts, but it can also inspire us to seize each day and find beauty and determination on the other side of grief. It is a hard and resiliency-building journey to integrate such losses into our lives so that we may find some peace.

Giacobone’s poem is an excellent example of how writing can help us lighten our load and honor the passing of our teammates in life. It is the survivor’s job to honor the dead and to carry on. If you are grieving, there are many guides for grief all around you. Reach out to others to share your stories and pain because it helps the healing for you and those around you.

As young parents we strive to prepare our children for the losses ahead. In fact, that is how I discovered a beautiful children’s book written by Judith Viorst, entitled The Tenth Good Thing About Barney. It tells the story of a young boy whose cat has died and who is too sad to eat, too sad to play, and too sad to go to school. His mother gently re-directs his thoughts to thinking of ten of the good things he could remember about Barney. This includes the softness of his fur, the comfort of his purr and so on. But the boy can only come up with nine things. His mother encourages him to go outside with her to prepare a burial place for their beloved cat. The boy asks his mother, “What will happen to Barney now?” His mother tells him that Barney will return to the soil to make it rich so things can grow.

They gently place Barney in the ground and sing his favorite song with many a sad tear. Afterwards they go back into the kitchen for cookies and milk and talk more about Barney. The boy tells his mother that he has just thought of the tenth good thing about Barney — it is that Barney is nearby in the ground helping the flowers to grow.

I have purchased many copies of this book and passed it on to those (of all ages) who have lost pets. It has been a comfort for many years and many backyard burials of treasured pets over the years. I tell this story in hopes that it will live on with its sharing.

In May, we laid our dog Reggie to rest after almost 17 years of being loved by multiple owners in our family and other friends. Rest in Peace, Reggie. Thanks for all the love you have shared with us.

Leave a Reply