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The Poets

October 09, 2012

An Elegy to Heather Tripler

This poem is a repost that I dedicate to the memory of Heather Tripler, a young homeless lady who died in a small park in Grand Junction this day in October of 2008. We’ll never forget you, Heather.

  


Emerson Park
An Elegy on the Passing of Heather Tripler

There’s snow there now where once she lay
Alone that Autumn eve
And though that day seems far away
I still lamenting grieve

For she- a daughter, mother, friend
She pined, I’m sure, in grief
For hard distraught there came her end
By Death, that surly thief

She roamed, she roamed through deepest dark
Alone, no friend to guide
And when she came upon that park
There on a bench she died

No tear went forth, nor word was said
To her who lay asleep
Til angels by her bed were led
In solace ever deep

“Awake, dear child, slumber’s past”
They said in one accord
“Come to the warmth and light at last
For therein is the Lord”

-jwm



Of the Poem

It was 2008, October 10th, when I was home from work and the news was on. A young lady, it was reported, was found dead on a park bench in Grand Junction. She was 34 years old, homeless, and apparently died there as a result of alcohol poisoning. I was utterly grieved by the news of this.

Words elude me. What can I say that might articulate the emotions that are stirred up in me even at this moment? How can I articulate the content of so tragic an event as Heather’s?

Perhaps these words, written to Heather’s mother, might express them the best …

"As I mentioned to your sister and your daughter, I’m so sorry for your loss. My daughter is 9 years old, and it would wreck my world if I lost her. This is honestly the closest to empathy that I can reach with regard to the emotional pain I’m certain you feel. I’m truly sorry that you and your family are without Heather. Any attempt to console you I imagine is fruitless, yet I have no doubt that you’ll see Heather again in the hereafter.

I don’t know Heather, but the first time I heard of her plight it grieved me so heavily that I still have difficulty articulating it. It was shortly after she died that the first snowfall of the year occurred, and as I was standing at my doorway looking at this beautiful sight I couldn’t stop thinking about her and that dreadful event. It was then that I felt, deep in the inner reaches of my heart, that I had to memorialize her in the form of a poem; that I had to say ‘something’ in honor of her.

I didn’t know what I would write, but there were two simple rules that I knew I had to follow … first, let the poem come to me rather than forcing too many ideas onto it; and second- and perhaps most importantly- to write it as if Heather were standing right there watching me write it (so as to get a sense of her approval, I think).

Those were the hardest 20 lines that I’ve ever written in a poem, but when I completed them I felt a beautiful sense of connection with Heather.

In the end I feel my point was to express (in the first stanza) the anguish I felt when I first heard of her death; to express (in the second and third stanza) her humanity in the midst of that lonely night- which the media seemed to entirely ignore; and to express (in the last two stanzas), the best way I knew how, her reception into the arms of the Lord.

The truth is, I wanted to express to Heather herself that I was listening. My original intention was to keep the poem to myself, but the second I finished it my conscience compelled me to try and contact her family and share it with them- and I did.

I’ve thought about Heather so much over the last two years. And though I’ve never met her, I’ll never be able to forget her."

5 comments:

battlecryandmidnightmoons said...

This was beautiful and it is so sad. I've had people touch me like this, people I didn't know whose death affected me so deeply, I grieved as if I had known them my whole life.
I wanted to reach out to the parents too but I didn't know if I would be stepping over boundaries but this honouring of a life that was precious to a family and tragic to a family is doing justice and giving grace by honouring the person. I'm not articulating this well. I think you did an amazing thing by writing this poem.

BerlinerinPoet said...

Wow! This is so full of heart! What a sad story, and I'm glad of what you said. You wrote it to tell her that someone was listening. Beautiful.

Heather's Sister said...

I am Heather's sister. It's hard for me to think of my sister as having been a homeless woman that died alone on a park bench; although on the surface, I guess this is what she was, at least at the end of her life. She was so much more than that though, she had so many people that loved her... love her still. Our family had pulled Heather from Death's door so many times before, but her addiction was like a demon looming over her, ever present, always waiting for the opportunity to take her away. Heather was a mother, daughter, sister and friend to so many. Her laugh was the most beautiful sound in the world. Her eyes were the deepest and most enchanting blue you've ever seen. Heather could walk into a room of strangers and leave with a group of new found friends. She was beautiful, in every way. Heather touched many many lives while she was alive, so it is no surprise to me that her passing touched many as well. I know that Heather was not alone on that park bench, she was never truly alone. The Lord was with her and she is in a better place now, free from that demon of addiction, free from pain, free from sorrow. Thank you for your poem and for remembering my sister. ~Bethany

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

A beautiful elegy that is so sad. You done a wonderful job writing this piece.

Thank you. Andrew.

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

A beautiful elegy that is so sad. You done a wonderful job writing this.

Thank you. Andrew.

As of April 9th, 2010