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  • Writer's pictureStacie Eirich

Driving through fog


Foggy Winter Morning, Photography by Dorinda Grever, fineartamerica.com


Brokenness beating through me

settling like rain into ditches  

the pieces of me scattered

lost within gray fog.

 

I drove into it this morning, into an unknown 

that no longer frightened me

fat droplets of rain, a deluge

blinding me as I drove on.

 

I wanted to stop, for something

to transform this now to then

this after to before, this life

to some other life that was or could be.

 

How long will this rain, this cold gray fog

this winter of my heart last? 

 

When will the sunlight, the green and gold

and pink press through again? 

 

The tree branches stand bare

wind like ice against my cheek

sky pressing sorrow 

into cold, damp earth.

 

I bend and touch 

the wet ground, sink to my knees

let my jeans soak in the mud

as rain flows around me.

 

A river of so much life

at my fingertips, the croaking of frogs

and songs of cicadas colliding

an endless cacophony on repeat, repeat.

 

Drowned out by the rain

of echoing loss 

of so much that was

of young lives stopped short —

 

of parents grief 

from the unimaginable

of a world that keeps spinning

a sky still pouring, my heart frozen or aching.

 

A thing closed yet open, a thing laid bare 

as the tree branches, standing still

in this winter

silently waiting —

 

For buds to bloom, for sunlight, for peace, 

for healing, for warmth, for restoration, for the sky 

to burn bright and unfurl its wings, its tenderness 

for my heart to feel the light again, that thing with feathers — 

 

Where can I find that elusive essence, that scent of joy

but in nature, in poetry, in music, in all that I have loved? 

 

That I still love, in this splintered heart, fractured

in pieces no longer repairable, no longer fit 

into a tidy framework, no longer a fabric 

to be knitted or sewn, no longer a puzzle with interlocking pieces.

 

This jumble of a heart

of a woman who was.

 

All I can do is keep

moving forward, keep 

driving through fog, keep

walking through rain, keep 

 

Moving through winter, searching

for sunlight, shedding

sorrows, pouring pieces of me out

with the dawn, letting love in.

 

Copyright @Stacie Eirich February 5, 2024

*Note: ‘that thing with feathers’ refers to Emily Dickinson’s poem Hope is a thing with feathers

Read her poem at the link below:

 

A few weeks ago, I drove through a rainstorm on the longest continuous bridge over water in the world. That bridge separates the Southshore of New Orleans from the Northshore, where my family lives. In the nearly thirteen years we’ve lived here, I’ve driven over this bridge countless times. And to say that it rains a lot here is an understatement.


So I’m certain that I’ve driven across the bridge in the rain before. But what I was unprepared for was the darkness, the fog, and the moment my driver’s side wiper popped off when I clicked on its switch — briefly flying up into the air before falling to its destiny somewhere in Lake Ponchartrain.


I should also tell you that I hadn’t driven much in the past year, as we didn’t keep a car in Memphis — instead boarding a shuttle daily between the hospital and housing at St. Jude. I should probably also tell you that my child was the only other person in the car that day, my child who suffers from heightened anxiety and emotions due to chemotherapy treatments.


In the moments after my windshield wiper flew, to the storm and darkness that followed — what I remember most is breathing. My breaths came in gasps, along with repeated utterances that became a mantra as we continued across the bridge: “I can see, I can see”, “We’re ok, we’re ok” and “Just keep driving, just keep driving.”


At some point my child, who had been laying back in the seat catnapping, awoke to the danger, took off their headphones and sat up straighter in their seat. I felt their hand lightly touch my arm, heard their voice echoing mine as our words became a mantra. I kept driving into the foggy, rain-soaked darkness. And within the hour we had made it to the other side, where a blur of streetlamps and taillights lit the rest of our way home.


Since then, it has rained a whole lot more — our backyard a river as I type, water coming down in a steady stream outside my window. The ditches are full and still the flood rises, the sky a somber gray, distant rolls of thunder warning of the storm that has yet to pass.


Since then, I’ve also driven more — and with a replaced windshield wiper and renewed sense of ease in navigating wet, winding roads — my child and I are getting by. We are still moving, still standing despite a cold winter that continues to pour.


Yes, I am literally talking about the rain and the floods that have impacted many people across Southern states this winter. But I’m also talking about the grief that seems to continue to pour into and through our lives. The loss that continues to touch us, and the sorrow that lingers.


I’ve heard another parent of a pediatric cancer patient say that after treatment ended, he continued to live with one foot in the hospital and one foot out. That he simply couldn’t go on living his life without thinking and feeling and doing for those who were still there, still in the trenches, fighting for the lives of their children.


His thoughts echo my own in that there isn’t a day where I’m not thinking of how our friends are, what we can do for them — how we can use our time and efforts and money to help the children and families fighting a pediatric cancer diagnosis. The families who, even though I’m no longer at the hospital alongside them, are the ones I am in contact with most now. The families who understand what it means to go through this — the ones who are crossing bridges in dark storms — and hopefully, finding streetlamps still burning on the other side.


Yet, even in the light, I know what it is to stand beside my survivor and see how broken we are, and how much healing we still need beyond what the clinic can provide. Sometimes, the sorrow nearly stops you — holds you frozen, the loss nearly toppling you from your hold on making it through to the next dawn.


This sorrow comes from the loss of friends, young warriors from some of the families who fought beside us. Children with the sweetest smiles and bravest hearts — children who deserved so much more time on earth than they were given.


In three months time since returning home, we have heard of the loss of three of these children, our once neighbors and friends in the fight — who only months before we saw in the hospital and housing hallways, infusion rooms, Family Commons and green spaces. Some days, we barely had time or energy to greet these children’s families in passing. Other days, we could offer more, whether that more was a hug, a conversation, time spent making art, or even having a much-needed laugh.


Each time after receiving news of a loss, I have sat frozen, later — with silent tears, with rain and gray and a sorrow that lingers. I have wondered how to reach out and what to do, and I have felt my heart shatter a bit further as grief threatens to drown it.


But then the dawn comes, and I look into the eyes of my child and see light once more. I remember that we have fought through storms and made it through a darkness deeper than I could’ve ever imagined. Deeper than the rains outside my window, the fog outside my windshield, and the nagging sorrow that has found a place to burrow inside.


There isn’t any easy way to rid ourselves of that sorrow, just as there isn’t a day when our steps forward will be easy. But we are making them, however slow, and however small. And while today the rain continues, perhaps tomorrow the sun will rise and shine again. Perhaps tomorrow a rainbow will brighten the dull gray, a reprieve will come in the form of good news for another child close to the end of treatment and the day their family goes home.


That ‘thing with feathers’ will let its wings cross the skies again, just as I’ll brave driving over the Lake Ponchartrain bridge again, this time looking into sunshine. Into a dawn where the pieces of me are mended, the hurt and loss and grief transformed into something stronger, something like love.


Thank you for being here, and for reading. If you’d like to listen to this poem and the thoughts that followed it — you can find the audio on my podcast, Poetry for Peace, Season 4: A New Dawn — available on Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Google & more.


In love,

Stacie


*Post Script* My child is a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  If you’d like to follow our journey to a cure, visit: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/hopeforsadie

 

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